Party's over, or you could say the party’s just about to begin. Depends on how you look at it. From here on out, every gram of protein, carbohydrate and fat I eat will determine how my body develops over the next 18 weeks. Even how I burn calories will help or hurt my development.
Sounds extreme, right? I wouldn’t care so much about these tiny details except I have seen the huge difference it makes in transforming my body from average to shredded and toned simply by following the nutrition plan to a T.
As a short term goal, it’s a fun challenge to see how much I can transform my body. In two years of living the fitness competition lifestyle, I have learned a lot about eating clean, how much to eat, and how many times a day. My body now also craves a different kind of nourishment that includes lots of fresh vegetables and water in my diet that I didn’t always incorporate before.
It’s definitely not a plan for anyone to follow for the rest of their life. But in the two years I have followed it, I have adopted many good eating habits that I practice every day now, even when I am not in prep. It’s funny, I can’t believe I deprived my body of so much great food, that’s healthy, too, for so many years! And my family enjoys a lot of it, too!
Even so, I realize fitness competitions are absolutely not for everyone, however, there are so many things about them that all people can benefit from. That’s what I want to share with others. If you are committed to getting healthier and stronger, there will be things in the fitness competitor’s lifestyle you can incorporate in your own lives that will help you reach your fitness goals.
I am excited! From now until October, I will be blogging and vlogging in detail on my website about my own fitness competition prep. I just started my prep for the NPC Texas Shredder in early September and another two competitions I have yet to nail down.
What I do know is that I will be making my “pro debut” in the Naturally Fit Federation, which, by the way, is an all-natural bodybuilding federation. They test for substances like steroids. And, for the record, I would never do that to my body. It goes against every reason why I started lifting weights and competing in the first place.
I hope you continue to follow my journey and are motivated by my experiences as you make your way to a stronger, healthier you!
Train. Execute. Conquer. Easier said than done. 2018’s Boston Marathon goes into the record books as being one of the toughest races for runners to endure. Yep, it was. No lie.
I trained 20 weeks for this race once again shooting for that elusive 3:30 finish I so desperately wanted.
I knew heading into it, I didn’t feel strong enough to maintain an 8:00 minute pace unless by some grace of God, my feet grew wings. Even so, I was still hopeful especially since I decided to take it easy the week before the race and let my legs recover from the last few weeks of difficult training.
But about a week before, as I was beginning to peek at the weather conditions for the day, and I began to worry. It went from temperatures in the 30’s to windy, to snow to heavy rain. Ugh. Who could deal with that for 26 miles?
Surely something would change, I thought. It couldn’t possibly be that bad?
But it was. Everything that was forecast except the snow.
Race day came, and as all runners were bussed out to the starting line in Hopkington, Massachusetts, 26 miles outside of Boston, we all talked about how we were layered for the conditions and how we expected to finish the race. I’ve never seen more runners wearing rain and cold jackets, ponchos, hoodies and plastic bags over their running shoes. I don’t think anyone cared about paying for those race day pictures on the route! We all looked so silly in our getups, but you gotta do what you gotta do to stay warm, right?
I think waiting in the cold rain, huddled against a wall and each other for 45 minutes was the worst. At least when we started running, everyone warmed up despite being drenched in 38 degree rain.
Next to the waiting, having to use the porta potty was the next worst moment for women runners. I think I avoided drinking water as much as I could so I wouldn’t have to remove any clothing.
Reduced hydration was another issue runners had to deal with. It’s hard to know you are thirsty when you are freezing and sweating at the same time. I must have grabbed a few gulps of water at only 5 water stations this year. That’s my record low for a marathon! Thank goodness I’m like a dang camel. Lol.
I also hardly reached for my go-to Gu gels I usually use for energy. I had one before I started running because I was cold and then about three along the route. I usually have about 6 during a marathon.
After the race I talked to a lot of runners that had cramping issues and I’m not sure if it was the cold or just not realizing that your body needs nutrients like electrolytes, Magnesium and salt replenished. Running in the rain makes you forget you’re sweating because it just feels like water.
I am not sure what the explanation is for the cramps in the arches of my feet that started as soon as I began running. It was a horrible pain that worsened if I tried to go faster. It felt like a tendon was pulling in my rear arch and if I ran too fast it would rip. I know, TMI…right? But it was horrible and constantly on my mind during the run.
But somehow the pain was numbed at times and I could enjoy the course. My favorite area is the students lined up at Wellesley College. All the observers are so supportive and loud, but this group is especially fun. They are mostly girls and many have signs saying, “Kiss Me” so you see some kisses shared, but I opted for a few high fives.
It’s funny how last year when I ran Boston, reaching mile 21 felt like I was in the home stretch. This year, all I felt was pain. I picked up the pace a little after Heartbreak Hill at mile 20-21 but not nearly as fast as I did last year. I thought I just needed to finish in one piece and prayed my arches would not cramp up bad enough to force me to stop.
So I kept going, even finding the energy a few times on the course, to pull out my phone and take a selfie or a video.
The crowds start to get louder at Boston College where everyone seems to be having a Patriots Day party to celebrate the holiday and the marathon. Once we get to mile 22 and 23, crowds get thicker, the route is narrower and has more turns as we get into downtown. From some ways out, we can see the giant iconic Citgo sign above Kenmore Square and it really begins to feel like we’re nearing the finish!
I love the giant sign painted on the street that reads 1 mile to go, so you know you’re at 25.2. THAT feels sooo good and it’s time ignore the pain and run as fast as you can (and get your camera ready for another selfie of course! Lol)
My favorite part of the race is turning onto Hereford street and then eyeing the turn onto Boylston Street which is the final stretch before the finish. From Hereford to Boylston the crowd is so loud it makes you emotional every time. The last 385 yards of the race you can see the finish line banner lit up in blue and yellow and I’m sure every runner headed for it feels like they’ve just won the race! I know I do! And I can’t wait to someday do it again.
Boston less than a week away!
It’s hard to believe the Boston Marathon is less than a week away! On Monday I ran my last 10 miler and I’m doing a few shake out runs this week…like 5 miles or less.
My hamstrings are super tight, so I will be working on stretching and rolling out my legs with the foam roller, and maybe take a yoga class if I can squeeze it in. Also, it’s always been helpful to get a Cryofreeze session in to help in muscle recovery and prep. Those are brutal, but afterward your body feels heavenly!
I won’t lie the last few long runs and interval runs have also been brutal for me. I just didn’t want to do them. I think I procrastinated all day.
From the 16 miler two weeks ago to the 12 miler last week, I was dreading having to go those distances at about an 8:15 pace. I didn’t quite make the pace in either run, but at least I finished in one piece. Ha!
My interval runs the last two weeks consisted of 8 x 800’s at a 3:40 pace and then 10x800’s at the same pace. An 800 is a basically a ½ mile hard run-- just a tad slower than sprinting. I finished those pretty strong. The first set was between 3:37 and 3:45. The last set of 10 clocked in at 3:30 to 3:43. Nice!! But that’s probably why my hamstrings are not happy today!
It’s all part of the last few weeks of marathon training. The feeling that you’re so sick of running and can’t do another training run to save your life. But, gotta, suck it up and get it done. The suffering is almost over and the glory awaits as you cross the finish line.
In case you have ever considered taking up marathon training, I attached a training plan similar to what I did for my very first few marathons, when all I cared about was getting the miles in and being able to finish at a natural pace for me. If you are wondering, my natural pace marathon finish is 4 hours and 15 minutes. That’s without any speed work.
If you love running and want to build a good foundation, try following this plan. Let me know how you like it and if you really love it and after 8-10 weeks, you want to add some speed work, I can incorporate that for you.
But this plan is great for someone who isn’t out to set world records, but you want get that marathon run off your bucket list and, who knows, maybe down the road, you might add a little speed demon stats to your resume of sports accomplishments.
On Sundays for Cross training, I would suggest doing a weight lifting class but go lighter on your legs. So an upper body type exercise is great -- even like a boxing workout.
On one of your Rest days, you should consider doing a yoga for runners class to stretch out those muscles. You could also do a yoga class on one of your lower mileage running days.
Running the heartache away
Some days you have so much weighing on your mind and your heart you just don't feel like running. Why? Your body aches and your heart is heavy. That happened to me this week.
My oldest son's transmission went out on his car, his grades in college were not good at mid semester, and he still owed us, his parents, a lot of money for basically throwing away his first semester by deciding to not take his finals at UT Arlington and transferring to UTSA.
His car is also an item he purchased without our consent. So why should we pay for the repair? It broke my heart. I wanted to help him with what he needed to get back on track, get to work, and get himself around.
But I knew I needed to show some tough love. So I headed out on my run thinking about all of these things. My legs were heavy, and my breathing was off. I even cried during my run as I thought about my son telling me his life sucked.
I think as parents we want to solve all of our kids problems, but we shouldn't. So I thought about that, and thought and thought. And by mile 3 I was feeling a little lighter in my step, my legs and my lungs were loosening up. I felt like I could be his super mom again, even though I wasn't going to dish out three thousand bucks right off the bat to rescue him.
But I felt strong enough to be his cheerleader and loving supporter and get through my easy pace 6 mile run.
Sometimes some runs are just intended to help get things off your chest, make you emotionally stronger, and able to deal with the curveballs life throws at you.
Don't dodge those curve balls. Face 'em head on. Running helps you do that.
Training on vacation, ugh. Why?
So you’re on vacation and you want to put that training for your upcoming 5K, 10K or marathon on hold. While working out on vacation is really hard for most people, I am here to tell you, do it. It’s well worth it!! Even if you just do half to three fourths of your usual workouts. Always try to do something.
On this past Spring Break trip to the Red River Ski Resort I fully intended to use the only gym facility in the little town and I was excited about that. But when I got there, I found out the gym had closed down. Ugh. Option two?
Well, at least there was no snow on the roads, so I would at least be able to get a few runs in. I did a really slow 8-miler and found a spot to do my half mile interval runs. So I got two good runs in on my trip. It was tough because the elevation was 85-hundred feet and my long run ended up being an 18-hundred foot climb for half and the other half was down hill . I think that wreaked havoc on my knees. I would not have tried to do so much except I am training for the Boston Marathon, so I knew I had to get as close to a training run as I could. Even my interval run was about 10 seconds slower because of the elevation.
So, training on vacation in a different environment can be tricky and might even set you back, but it’s so worth it to get some training, or exercise in, so you don’t feel like you’ve lost a few steps when you get back home. I also feel that it helps the body acclimate to what is normal for you when you do return home. I know when I get back home, I’m always a few pounds heavier but it takes just 2-4 days to get back to my “normal” weight. If I didn’t exercise on vacation, I bet that would take a week or longer.
Just do it. You’ll feel better!
Boston Marathon home stretch
I’m in the homestretch of training for the Boston Marathons as I write my first blog for the website. This will be my fourth Boston Marathon but it’s as exciting as the first one I ran in 2009. Every training program has been different. Almost like every one has been the first time.
For the first training program, I didn’t have any idea what to expect of the course nor the weather nor the ambience. Now, for my fourth, I know the course well, I know the weather can be very tricky and I’m seven years older! So my training has to take that into account. Case in point, last year when I trained for Boston, I started my track work, or speed work, sooner about 11 or 12 weeks in, and I didn’t follow any specific diet plan. I just ate when I was hungry and I ate my favorite foods: carbs! Well I paid for it! All the weight I lost the entire year before, I gained back and then some. I felt so defeated in that regards although I ran the best race I ever finished at Boston. But when I took my body fat measurements after the race, I had climbed back up to where I’d started the year before: 23 percent body fat! Frustrating!
So this year we tried a different approach for my training. I did more high mileage training and kept the pace slow also keeping my heart rate lower and closer to my fat burning zone. So for the first 12 weeks of training all I did was add miles at a decent pace, nothing too fast. And I think it helped because I was able to keep my body fat percentage at 12-15% and my weight around 130-132 pounds.
One drawback to that is that I was concerned I would not develop any speed. But in the 13th week we added our first track workout or interval training. I ran four 800s (1/2 mile) at just about a seven minute pace. That felt awesome! If I can keep that up to race day it will be great!
So from here on out, I am trying to build more miles, but I am giving myself another recovery day or two during the week so I can run faster on the days that I do train. Now I just need to be concerned about not taking into many carbs and cancelling all my gains from a year of lifting.
It’s all about finding the balance, my friends, just like life.
Sarah's Training Blog
From running to bodybuilding to Ironman, how she makes it all work - and you can, too!