Small Changes, Big Results

A couple weeks ago I posted this on facebook:

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and I really reflected on what I had said about eating more.  Was I not eating enough?  I had noticed lately in race photos that I have been looking particularly lean, but didn’t think much of it.  After all, that’s kind of what your body naturally does when you’re nearing your 30′s, you run 80 – 90 mpw, and don’t eat processed foods.

Then, the following week, my body felt like it began to revolt.  Overall I was feeling kind of crappy and my cycle had been consistently abnormal (35+ days instead of predictably 28).  I decided to start tracking my nutrient and calorie intake to see whether there was an obvious issue with the way I was eating, using cronometer.  I was immediately surprised:  I had been consistently undereating by 500 – 800 calories per day, and this was even during a period without 20 milers or speed work.  I also realized my diet was extremely fat heavy.  While I don’t think that a fat heavy diet is necessarily a bad thing (especially because my fat all came from nuts, seeds, olive/coconut oil, and full fat dairy), my macronutrients were kind of skewed.  Fat and carbohydrates were almost equal, at 45ish%, and protein was getting drowned out in the process.

I have been consciously trying to eat more carbs, and even though at the end of the day recently I haven’t felt particularly hungry, I have been eating an extra 300 – 500 calorie snack to make up for this deficit.  The result?

This week was the best training week I have ever had in my life.  

Besides 4 x 1600 in 5:15, 5:13, 5:13, and 5:10 on Tuesday, today I ran a hilly 4 mi tempo at Eagle Creek in 21:50, with splits of 5:28, 5:36, 5:25, and 5:21.  NBD, just PR’d in both the 5k and 4 mile distances during a workout, two days after the best mile repeat workout of my life.  The tempo felt the way a tempo should:  tough, but in control.

The food tracking for me is a lot of fun, because I really enjoy seeing the data.  For instance, I get a lot of vitamin B2 in my diet.  This was my vitamin count by 11 AM yesterday:

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I tend to not get enough vitamin D or vitamin E naturally.  Also, since my nutritionist has access to my cronometer account, I am extra conscious of the “rules” she gave me:  always have a protein, carb, and fat at each meal, and diversify my diet as much as possible.  When I reach for my 3rd banana of the day, I think twice and go for a blood orange instead.  I am also realizing I need to cool it on the coconut products, since I have been eating something with coconut every single day, and I was borderline coconut sensitive when I took the MRT test last year.

I do not recommend nutrient tracking for everyone, though.  Even for me, someone who has never had body image issues, the first few days of tracking were tough.  We are so ingrained to believe calories = bad, fat = bad, cholesterol = bad, etc. that I found myself a little bit overwhelmed when I saw those numbers rise.  However, a couple better-than-average workouts got me past that, and now I see this tool for what it is:  just another piece of data to help me run my best.

That’s not the only change that I have made, though.

I also made the decision a couple weeks ago to cut back on how much I work.  Right before Houston I overbooked myself and the half marathon suddenly became the most inconvenient part of my week because I had an eBook due at midnight.  Now, obviously I did this to myself.  Freelance work is hard because, like running, you get out of it what you put in.  Then, I did it again to myself the week before Bend, and was working 10 hours a day just so that I didn’t have to work too much in Oregon.  The day after the race I wound up waking up at 2 AM to finish writing before driving to Portland to catch my flight.

The following week, I had a moment of “I have so much work to do, I’ll have to run less today so that I can get it all done.”

NOPE.

not the point.  So, I have cut back the amount that I am working to 2 – 4 hours per day.  Right now it’s a little bit scary because this month I am probably going to make half of what I normally do.  But, I have been working so much the past few months that I have developed a cushion to support myself through April.  The month of May is a big one in Speedway (with the Indy 500 and all), so I figured if I need to make up for lost money I can get a “seasonal” job at one of the bars down the street during May and make up for it.  I was a cocktail waitress in college, so it wouldn’t be that far out of my skill set.

Cutting back on work has been great for my running.  For a while, I was waking up early, working until it was time to run, going for a run but feeling stressed about it, coming back home and working until my next run, and then working until it was time for bed.  I would go to bed stressed, and have a hard time sleeping because I knew how much I had to do the next day.  Now, I have time to sit and relax before and after workouts, and actually devote time to recovery activities and spend time with Dave.  I have been going to bed around 10:30 every night (as opposed to 12:30) and feeling so much better for it.

Obviously, that leads to the third small change I have made:  more and better sleep.  The day that I ran my mile repeats, I slept 11 hours the night before, which definitely helps when you’re trying to run fast!

Originally published on Going Big, or Going Home

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