It’s been almost two months since my last post. I have spent the past two months trying to improve my health, heal my running injuries, and in general relax. I have been reading quite a lot, running when I can, especially on the trails, and thinking about “next steps”.
Work has been quite busy, as we are experiencing an increased work load due to some structural changes at the institution. This has brought a lot of stress and uncertainty, as well as a scramble to keep up with my every-increasing to-do list. I therefore made a conscious effort to make sure that my time away from work was truly downtime. I haven’t started any new projects, or put any pressure on myself to finish in-progress projects. The coat closet is still unfinished, we still have a hole in our living room ceiling, the house still needs to be painted, and there is still tons of decluttering to be done. The situation at work is only temporary, and things should settle down by spring. When they do, all those projects will still be there.
I have instead turned my attention to my health. My foot still plagues me occasionally, some times more than others. However, I think I have finally hit on the right combination of shoes and inserts, along with stretching, icing, and rolling, to allow me to continue to run.
I have been trying to do more short runs, rather than increase the distance of my long run. After some extensive reading during my layoff, I realized that I have been running predominantly in the anaerobic zone for several years, and that I have no aerobic fitness base. This explains why I have never really been able to improve beyond a certain point, and why my recovery time after long runs was so long. Therefore, I have begun using my heart rate monitor to try to stay within my aerobic heart rate zone, in order to build my base. By training in my aerobic zone, my body will learn to burn fat as fuel, rather than glycogen. This will allow me to go further without refueling, and make recovery a breeze. Most of my runs at the beginning have been punctuated by long walking breaks, in order to keep my heart rate in the correct zone. However, I am starting to see a bit of an improvement, particularly as the weather has begun to cool. Previously, I tried not to run two days in a row, as I needed a day to recover. Now, I can run back-to-back days easily. My mile splits are abysmal, but I keep telling myself that I have to go slow now so that I can go faster and further later.
I also have changed my way of eating dramatically. I have followed the principle of calories in / calories out for years with no improvement in my weight. (Calories in / calories out, or CICO, is basically the theory that if you burn more calories than you eat, you will lose weight.) Let me put it this way – I ran over 500 miles last year, and weighed the same at the end of the year as I did at the beginning. I have always eschewed eating plans that restrict particular foods of food groups. But after reading several books during my hiatus, I decided to try reducing my carbohydrate intake.
The first week was AWFUL! I had a migraine all week and felt horrible. Then I began to notice that I was not nearly as hungry between meals. Usually, by the time I made it home from work, I would be starving, but that wasn’t the case anymore. I also don’t see the energy swings during the day that I used to. So far, I have lost 8 pounds, but more importantly, I feel so much better. My carbohydrate intake is not nearly as restricted as many “low-carb” diets. I try to stay under 100 net carbs a day, lower if I can, and include more lean protein and healthy fats to make up the calorie difference.
At first, I had some trouble with energy during my runs, but that quickly passed as my body adjusted. I really thought that I would miss pasta and bread and all my favorite high-carb foods, but to my surprise, I haven’t. I am able to include things in my diet that I couldn’t before, like eggs, cheese, peanut butter, and avocados, that are high-calorie, but filled with good fat and protein. It’s been hard to change my mindset to not care about calories anymore, but I am starting to adjust.
I am hoping that the combination of a way of eating that promotes fat-burning and a way of running that promotes fat-burning will, well, result in more fat-burning. And with my body better able to burn fat for fuel, I will be able lose weight, feel better, and run further and faster.
And speaking of further and faster, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate on my daughter, who took 6th in the 2-mile at the A.J. Bridges Invitational Cross Country Meet last Saturday. She is a freshman, and competed against mostly older high school girls from all around the region. She joined the cross country team late and only had three practices before the meet, so a 6th place finish is very impressive! We are very proud of her!