A SAVAGE TAKEDOWN OF THE KETO DIET

Like the cockroach behind your refrigerator, the bullshit diet bug just keeps resurfacing. 

In 1970 it was called Atkins. In 2003, South Beach. In 2015, Paleo. Today it’s called Keto.

The message is always the same: “Cut whole categories of food, shrink rapidly, live feely, be worthy of love and admiration! For the low, low price of….” But the medium has changed. Social influencers are the program’s salesforce, blowing up your news feed with Photoshopped portraits of their idealized, carb-less lifestyle.

(Cue beach selfie, in a bikini, drinking a raw lard martini)

I’m not going to pull any punches here: these posts don’t deserve your FOMO. They’re ads and they deserve your concern, especially as a runner.

BACK UP. WHAT’S A KETO DIET?

Keto diets are an extreme reduction of carbohydrates and mass consumption of fat. On a normal diet, your body breaks carbohydrates down into blood sugar. On a keto diet, your body breaks fat down into ketones (acid) instead.

In a nutshell: You’re using fat as a fuel source instead of carbs.

HOW DID KETO DIETING BEGIN?

Keto dieting began in hospitals over a hundred years ago, when doctors discovered that an extreme limitation of carbohydrates could reduce epileptic episodes in children. They were also effective at prolonging the lives of children with type 1 diabetes before the invention of medical insulin.

WHAT ABOUT THE GENERAL PUBLIC?

One side-effect of the keto diet is initial rapid weight loss, accompanied by lethargy and foul, vaguely metallic breath. For this reason (the first one), keto dieting has resurfaced several times in popular culture as a fad diet.

Ugly truth: most of the weight lost in the first week after adopting a keto diet is actually the water from your glycerin (blood sugar) stores. You’ve lost water weight, not fat.

Here’s where I step on some toes.

#1. KETO DIETS ARE IMPOSSIBLE TO MEASURE WITHOUT A DOCTOR.

Keto dieting was invented in a hospital, where fats were measured on scales and patients’ blood ketone levels were monitored by doctors. Unless you’re obsessively planning and weighing every morsel of food that goes in your mouth, you won’t actually know if you’re consuming the right ratio of fat to carbs to actually induce ketosis.

#2. KETO DIETS COULD DEPRIVE YOU OF VITAMINS AND MINERALS.

At any given moment, your body is using endless numbers of vitamins and minerals to complete tasks you take for granted. Picked a booger today? Thank vitamin A for trapping the germs in your nose gunning for your brain.

Vitamin A can be found in: carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash, cantaloupe, apricots, spinach, kale, collard greens

Vitamin A cannot be found in: butter steak

Again, unless you’re under a licensed doctor’s supervision, you might not be consuming the recommended daily dosage of vital stuff on a keto diet, like potassium, magnesium, and vitamin C.

#3. KETO DIETS ARE TYPICALLY FULL OF CHOLESTEROL.

If you’re struggling with type 2 diabetes, steer clear of keto diets, which are a risk for cardiovascular disease (heart attacks) because of their focus on cholesterol-heavy foods (meat).

Studies show that ultra runners adopting a keto diet especially see higher cholesterol (both “good” and “bad”). Even the cholesterol particles themselves are bigger.

#4 KETO DIETS HINDER ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE OVER TIME.

Most elite runners do not follow a keto diet for obvious reasons—we love bagels.

Ha. Seriously, though—you would think a diet burning fat would be great for long distance runners like me, training for a marathon where using fat as fuel is necessary after 20 miles in one go. What gives?

Carbs are beloved by runners because they can be quickly transformed into, and used as, fuel. This is necessary for maximum training. Eat a banana before your run and you feel like superwoman. Eat a burger before your run and you feel like a drunk water buffalo.

When you train at your best, you perform at your best, and to train at your best you need quick carbs. Coming to every workout burning your “reserves” energy is sabotage. Save the fat-burning for your long runs and your marathon, not everyday life.

A few athletes advocate for the keto diet, saying they immediately saw results in the first few weeks. But that jump in performance is likely because of the initial lost water weight, and will not improve conditioning long-term.

#5. KETO DIETS CAN FATALLY OVERLOAD YOUR BODY WITH ACID (KETOACIDOSIS).

Doctors estimate that at least 25% of keto dieters experience these symptoms, nicknamed the “keto flu”: 

  • Nausea/ Vomiting

  • Bad Breath

  • Floating poo

  • Malaise/Fatigue

  • Chronic Instagramming (I kid)

Symptoms typically abate in a few weeks. However, if they don’t, you run the risk of developing a fatal overdosing of acid in your bloodstream, called ketoacidosis. Too much acid in our kidneys, heart, and brain, can permanently damage tissue. Diabetes patients are especially at risk.

ABI, NOW THAT YOU SHAT ALL OVER MY DIET, HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO LOSE WEIGHT?

I hate to sound like your mom, your P.E. teacher, or your therapist here (no I don’t), but eating a variety of wholesome foods and exercising in a way you find enjoyable is the only realistic solution I’ve found to permanently improve your overall health.

Diets aren’t sustainable. If you have a hard time sticking to one, don’t despair, everyone else fails eventually, too. That’s why they’re a fad!

There’s a better way.

#1. EXPLORE YOUR RELATIONSHIP TO FOOD.

Animals have a straightforward relationship with food: they seek food when hungry and eat what’s available.

Humans have complicated the hell out of our relationship with food, often making it a scapegoat for our emotional inner turmoil. This is because we’re lucky- we have the ability to abuse food because of its abundance.

Your relationship with food is easily hijacked by icky feelings: shame, helplessness, anxiety. And it’s no wonder it’s food that our brains choose to abuse or use as a crutch—we are literally faced with food everywhere we go, all day, every day, from birth. Worse, if you quit cold turkey, you frickin’ die! 

Sprinkle on Photoshopped influencer photos on Instagram, a truckload of vitamin supplements that aren’t regulated by the FDA, and family-sized bags of M&M’s and you’ve got a full-blown epidemic of fucked-up-edness derailing your brain from making positive choices.

If you find yourself overeating, under-eating, abusing laxatives or throwing up your food, obsessively counting calories or chasing fad diets, your problem is not with food. Modifying your diet will not solve these problems. I urge you to seek therapy first.

#2. EAT A BALANCED DIET.

Climb that food pyramid like it’s Giza. Well, actually, the US  government’s replaced the food pyramid with a graphic they call MyPlate. I initially missed the triumphant pyramid, but have to agree that it’s much easier to apply to everyday life.

If you need to coax yourself into eating veggies, go slow. You can easily sneak spinach into a strawberry smoothie and never taste it. Wrap shredded beef with bib lettuce. The more you cook, the more control you have over your own nutrition.

If you’re new to cooking and have the money, meal kit delivery services aren’t half bad to spice up your diet and get your veggies in. Choose one with healthier options, like Plated, Hello Fresh, or Sun Basket. **No one paid me to say this. I’ve ordered from all of them. Blog post forecoming.

#3. GET ACTIVE.

(Runners, skip ahead.)

FIND AN EXERCISE YOU ENJOY. 

If your exercise regimen feels like punishment, quit now! I guarantee there is a workout that can bring a smile to your face. If you’re not sure where to start, sign up for Class Pass or search for deals on Groupon. Commit to working out at least three days a week for a 30 minutes minimum.

In classes, don’t be afraid to be the most clueless person in the room. Everyone started sometime and they remember how it felt.

Exercise can add decades to your lifespan. Seriously, play with this life expectancy calculator from a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and compare.

EXERCISE WITH A FRIEND.

Studies have shown miraculous benefits for working out in pairs or groups. Not only is there shared accountability, but healthy competition and positive reinforcement. One study showed that 95% of those who started a weight-loss program with friends completed the program, compared to only 76% who began the program solo. The friend group was also 42% more likely to keep off the weight they lost.

Exercising with a loved one is equally rewarding. Scientific studies show that activities that elevate your heart rate actually increase feelings of enamor between romantic partners. Your partner’s presence subliminally encourages you to work harder and perform better. Plus, coordinating movements together involves nonverbal matching and mimicry, both of which our brains slurp up as signs of affection. 

SET A SPECIFIC GOAL.

Once you find an exercise you like, make a goal. Right now, I’m gearing up for a half marathon in January. My training calendar stares at my face the two places I frequent most often: my desk at work, and my fridge. I’m constantly reminded of my goal throughout the day. And checking off those boxes feels good.

I’d go on about goal setting, but Marcel Schwantes sums up everything you need to know here.

Reward yourself for milestones. No, not with an ice cream sundae. Kick back and catch up on Game of Thrones. Read in a hammock on the porch. Call a friend and casually brag about how you synchronized with the downbeat during your spin class (humanly impossible to my knowledge). 

#4. STOP SAYING “I’M ON A DIET.”

Has anyone ever said “I’m on a diet!” excitedly? No, because diets are punishment.

Say to yourself “I’m a healthy person” instead. In the present tense. This simple flip of how to speak to yourself will give you confidence and respect in yourself. Forget what you ate yesterday, or what you’ll eat tomorrow. Right now, you’re a healthy person, so you’re going to make healthy decisions. Affirm it.

TRUST ME, I’M IN ADVERTISING: DIETS ARE LIES.

The diet industry is just that—an industry, sucking up $70.3 billion of our economy.

In the industry of health and wellness, corrupt entities don’t want you to get well because then you no longer need their products or services. There are plenty of honest, well-intentioned dietitians and nutritionists out there helping people get better, but you have to learn to tune out the garbage as well. 

A good rule of thumb to sniff out the bullshit: is your doctor selling you a product only they can provide? I once went to a “family doctor” who prescribed me vitamin B for anxiety. Guess what I passed on my way out the door? A mountain of bottles of vitamin B, courtesy of whatever supplement company paid for her Audi outside.

Any nutritionist worth their salt will give you tools to live healthfully in the real world without their products as a crutch. They will help you alter your lifestyle, so you can eventually stand— maybe even run— on your own two feet.

PRIORITIES (A PAINT-FUME INSPIRED MOTIVATIONAL DIATRIBE)

Hey. It’s been a while, but your favorite banana has returned. And I need you to know it wasn’t you, it was me. You see, I’ve been hard at work.

Let me start with this: One of the most frequent questions I’m asked about running is how to start. The answer is simple:

TO GO FROM POINT COUCH TO POINT FINISH LINE, YOU MUST MAKE RUNNING A PRIORITY.

And therein lies a universal truth that holds water in every area of your life. You see, your priorities are a big fucking deal. They define your life, because they determine how you spend finite increments of time you’ve got on this planet. If that sounds terrifying, good. That means you’re not making decisions that align with your priorities and you’ve just made the first step to make a change— identifying the problem.

You make thousands of decisions every day, and whether or not you realize it, whether you chose A or B was the result of your priorities. Did you brush your teeth last night? No? Then dental health was not your priority. Falling asleep to Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt with the lingering taste of your Manwich sloppy jo in your mouth was your priority.

If you’re not running, it’s because it’s not a priority, simple as that. You’re prioritizing something else. Sometimes, that’s necessary, like if you have a family to take care of, a wife or husband to love, or a demanding career, another hobby or sport.

YOUR PRIORITIES ARE NOT RIGHT OR WRONG. THEY JUST ARE.

So, that said, completely free of judgement of your priorities, it’s whether or not you’re committing to your priorities consistently that will make or break your ability to reach a goal.

My priorities shifted wildly in the last year. After my long-term contract as a copywriter ended at a local advertising agency, I kicked into high gear starting my own business as a freelance writer. Keeping a roof over my head was my top priority.

I continued to log regular miles, but nothing that compared to training season. It sucked. I was simultaneously restless and exhausted, moonlighting to meet insane deadlines for hot projects I couldn’t afford to decline. Most of my emails were stamped at eyebrow-raising hours.

For the first time in a long time, running was on the back-burner. But I knew I would only succeed if I did so intentionally. After all, without a roof over my head and meals on my table, I wouldn’t be able to run anyway.

I'M HAPPY TO ANNOUNCE I SUCCEEDED.

Not only did I not have to train Butters, my cat, to crochet, lip sync, or tap dance to become an overnight YouTube sensation, but I doubled my previous monthly income through hard work. I’m fortunate for the work I was awarded, and the knowledge I’m scrappy enough to do it all over again if I have to. Or want to.

Fast-forward a bit, and I’m back to the 9-to-5 life at an agency called Idea Planet, which, by the way, is my favorite place ever and worth the wait. They even sent me to licensing show, where I met Grumpy Cat and got to preview top secret trailers for my client, 20th Century Fox.

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So, one would think, with a consistent schedule and over 4 hours of sleep every night, I can prioritize running again. Wrong.

This time, I’m my own instigator of shifting priorities. My boyfriend Lucas and I decided to move in together. Cue hearts and rainbows. And then began remodeling his house. Cue saw dust. My priorities have become grout work, carpentry, and minimizing my inhalation of paint fumes. Or people's perception of my inhalation of paint fumes.

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Running might not be my top priority even still today. Nevertheless, I’m stronger than before, and see my next marathon on the horizon.

I'VE LEARNED FIVE MAIN LESSONS AS A FREELANCER THAT CAN BE APPLIED TO TRAINING:

1.     It’s ok to shift priorities.

2.     Trust that you can take care of yourself.

3.     Bad days and bad runs are never permanent.

4.     Sleep and nutrition are just as important to being mentally sharp as physically sharp. If you have to sacrifice something, don’t make it sleep or your diet.

5.     Select a partner on the track and in life that wholeheartedly believes in you.

PRIORITIES ARE AN EXCEPTIONAL FILTER.

Put the magic 8 ball away, I have your answer to everything. Decide what’s important to you, in which order. Use this progression to determine the outcome of any debate. And lastly, respect that others have different priorities than you. It’s cool to not make running, or contouring, or starting a jam band a priority. Your priorities are what you make them.

Whatever you want to do, commit to it. Want to be a runner? Lace up your sneakers. Go. You'll figure it out. I believe in you.

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WHAT NO ONE TELLS YOU ABOUT RUNNING A MARATHON

Nine days ago I ran the BMW Dallas Marathon for the second year in a row. After intensive training for five months, I broke my record with a new PR—3 hours and 38 minutes. However, I didn’t make my ultimate goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. I was just three minutes shy!

While I gathered plenty of information during my training to share with you over the next few weeks, I have a few fresh thoughts to share. Namely, the crazy &*@# no one tells you about running a marathon.

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#1. YOU MIGHT JUST CELEBRATE OVER A TRASHCAN.

Or, in the case of Chandler Self, the BMW Dallas Marathon winner this year, in a wheelchair unable to remember who you are or where you are.

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I know, you’re probably imagining yourself leaping over the finish line and rushing into the arms of someone who loves you. Let me clear that up for you. You might just limp across the finish line, stumble around disoriented and unable to remember that one guy’s name. You know, the one that likes you, your boyfriend, aren’t you all supposed to meet? And then barf into a trashcan. Your heroic feelings will occur later, when your stomach settles and your amnesia dissipates.

#2. ICKY EXISTENTIAL FEELINGS MIGHT ARISE.

Running a marathon uses up every bit of the glucose in your muscles, but did you know it also uses up nearly all of your willpower? Your emotions after completing a marathon will run free like naughty children in the days following the finish line. Your immune system is compromised following a marathon for three days, says science, and your emotional regulation will be compromised for three days, too, says me.

For instance, the BMW Dallas Marathon happened to fall five days before my employment contract with Tandem Theory (a kickass advertising agency full of fellow runners!) ended. To give you an idea of why I would miss these people—they gave me, a contract worker, this care package before the marathon as encouragement.

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So, I finished the marathon feeling heroic only to realize the next morning I had no energy to apply for jobs the next day. All of the sudden, with nothing to train for, looking up an enormous mountain called Searching For a Good Job, I was paralyzed by physical and mental exhaustion.

Despite the fact I’m a type-A do-it-do-it-just-finish-it type person, I made myself wait a few days to begin really delving into the hard work of researching, cover letter writing, tailoring my portfolio, and bribing. I mean, networking. Give yourself a couple of days to be useless before driving yourself towards a new goal—even if it’s non-athletic.

#3. SURPRISE! YOUR LIFE IS BACK.

About a week after Netflix-and-chilling yourself back to health you’ll find yourself remembering your pre-marathon life. Oh yeah, you’ll say, didn’t I have a running blog? And friends. A weekly yoga class. A clean home. That home improvement project.

I suggest using the next few weeks to call your mom, donate your plethora of ugly free running t-shirts, and finally fix that running toilet.

#4. UM, SO, WHEN WILL MY BODY GO BACK TO NORMAL?

For at least a week or two after running a marathon, you’re still going to get those weird runner’s cravings and eat like a cow. At least until your metabolism wakes up and realizes you’ve been on the couch a lot lately. Pay attention to those cravings—your body is still healing for roughly a month post-marathon and you need to repair the tissue you’ve broken down in your muscles and organs. You know, important stuff.

You might be sore for over a week. But making friends with your foam roller, walking (yes, I said walking) will help you get up to speed faster. Don’t rush the healing. It’ll happen, mostly with time but also with a little work. The best way to screw up your next bout of marathon training is by not resting enough now.

#6. TELLING PEOPLE YOU MISSED YOUR GOAL IS ODDLY THERAPEUTIC.

I missed my time goal by three minutes. Three minutes! I was 180 seconds from qualifying for the Boston Marathon. (I did, however, achieve a new PR with a finish time of 3:38. Yay.) Yet, no one I shared this information with replied, “Well that’s just horrible! You should give up on running forever.” I don’t know why I assume people would ever say such a thing but it ends now. Everyone I know who has made it to Boston said to me, “Well, you can totally do it next year.” I can.

People are rooting for you. Even if they aren’t, they’ll pretend they are. They’re irrelevant anyway. You do you. Be proud that. However you performed on race day, you dedicated months of your life to challenging your body and mind to the max. That ain’t nothin’ to shake a foam roller at.

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THE SKINNY ON VITAMINS

One of the biggest misconceptions I hear from runners and non-runners alike is that athletes are so lucky we can eat whatever we want!

Sure, but... just because you burn over a thousand calories in one run doesn’t mean you’ll replenish your vitamin and mineral stores with a tub of rocky road.

You don’t just need calories, you need iron, vitamin C, vitamin D, calcium, protein, sodium, and potassium. And you should try to get your nutritional requirements met by eating them in natural foods before turning to manufactured vitamin capsules.

Here's how, and why.

VITAMIN C

Aside from providing you a false sense of camaraderie with your classmates, Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant.

That’s a fancy way of saying Vitamin C helps your body fight off intruding germs and infections, and allows you to heal wounds and blisters. Runners particularly need Vitamin C to protect from upper respiratory infections, which can derail your training by gunking up your lungs.

Vitamin C Super-Duper foods: Citrus fruits and dark, leafy greens: bell peppers, kiwi, broccoli, oranges, tomatoes, mangos, strawberries, kale, Brussels sprouts, papayas.

Random Vitamin C Fact: The “C” in Vitamin C comes from ascorbic acid, which means “anti-scurvy” in old-pirate-doctor-speak.

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VITAMIN D

No bones about it, Vitamin D is pretty rad.

Vitamin D helps your body process calcium, which is vital to grow bones resilient to stress fractures. Vitamin D also fights inflammation. (You know, when your knees get puffy from over-training.)

You probably know the most common way to absorb Vitamin D is by exposing your skin to natural sunlight. Outdoor runners, you're golden. However, if you run on a treadmill, wear protective clothing, or live in a cloudy climate, you might just need some extra.

Vitamin D Super-Duper Foods: Wild-caught, fatty fish such as salmon and tuna, egg yolks, milk products including cheese and yogurt, almond milk, oatmeal.

Sad Vitamin D Fact: Skin also has a harder time producing vitamin D with age. 

IRON

Ladies, I’m looking at you.

Almost 20% of women don’t consume enough iron, and a whopping 50% of pregnant women aren’t giving their bun in the oven enough iron, either.

Iron deficiency is what’s commonly called anemia, where your body is unable to produce sufficient red blood cells and you’re left fatigued, bitchy, and unable to recover from hard workouts. Iron delivers oxygen to your muscles, which is crucial to building your performance capabilities. 

Iron Super-Duper Foods: Red meat, dark poultry, seafood (clams, mussels, salmon, halibut), dried apricots, dark greens, whole grains, soy.

Iron BFFact: Pairs well with Vitamin C. No, seriously, wash that breakfast steak down with your OJ to improve your iron absorption.

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POTASSIUM

DID SOMEONE SAY BANANAS?!?!?!

Potassium hooks up with sodium to balance electrolyte levels in your body—as in the electrical pulses which enable your muscles to move like a smooth machine. If you want your super low heart rate to be steady and kick heart disease to the curb, you need to follow the runner stereotype and eat bananas all day.

Potassium Super-Duper Foods: Bananas with peanut butter, banana smoothies, banana muffins, banana bread, banana splits, banana splits, banana splits.*

Potassium Fun Fact: Potassium makes up 70% of the positive ions inside the cells of your body.

***Also, winter squash, spinach, sweet potato, white beans, yogurt, OJ, halibut, cantaloupe, pistachios, raisins, I guess.

SODIUM

Small fry? Na.

Salt gets a bad rap, given its overuse— hellooo, nachos. Doctors tell most people to limit their salt intake. But as a runner covering long distances or training in excessive heat (here’s squinting at you, Texas), you’re in danger of losing critical levels of sodium through sweat.

As an electrolyte, sodium gives your cells the electrical charge they need to guide impulses through your nerves and make your body run, walk, douggie, etc. This charge is created when sodium pushes into a cell and pushes potassium out of the cell, essentially creating a chain of energy which allows your muscles to contract.

Sodium Super-Duper Foods: Sports drinks, pretzels, black olives, ham, egg yolks, dairy products. My favorite? Salting steamed zucchini and squash.

Sodium Fun Fact: You can overdose on salt. For instance, when this 19-year-old drank an entire bottle of soy sauce. Because freshmen orientation, duh.

VITAMIN R

OK, there is no real vitamin R. But you need to rest! Getting 8+ hours of sleep a night is just as necessary to your routine as packing in protein. Never skip your rest day. Put your feet up and enjoy it. Need some inspiration for making rest days fun? I've gotcha here.

 

CHEAT SHEET TO A RUNNER'S 40 BPM HEART

Runners are a weird breed, and our romantic partners deserve a medal of their own. After all, many of them wake up with us at 5 AM on race day, rub our aching feet, and allow us to pillage their pantry for crabs without resentment. We hope.

That said, sometimes they don't know how to support you as an athlete, especially if they do more "couch" than "5K." Which is why, after reading about Love Languages, I created a cheat sheet for your romantic partners with creative, runner-specific ways to woe.

LOVE LANGUAGE? IS THAT THE SOUND OF ME EATING A SLEEVE OF EVERYTHING BAGELS AFTER A 20 MILER?

Yeah! No.

According to Gary Chapman, a relationship counselor and author of The 5 Love Languages, there are five primary ways you and your partner may perform and recognize acts of love. You might speak one language and understand in another, which can get tricky.

Do your love life a favor and take the free Love Languages Assessment to determine which love languages you speak most fluently. Have your partner do the same. It might just blow your mind to discover that your significant other drove you to the DMV because they love you and not for the efficient and friendly customer service.

Love isn't rocket science. It's harder. So, after you take the assessment, help out your boo by sharing these love language- specific ways to warm your 40 bpm heart.

CHEAT SHEET TO A RUNNER'S 40 BPM HEART

Quality Time

  • Talk your beloved runner through their ice baths while holding their blue, nearly lifeless hands.
  • During races, track your runner through Google's location sharing capabilities, or get a rough estimate of their finish time and wait for them at the finish line with a big, sweaty hug.
  • Join your runner for the first few minutes (or, hey, all of) their run!
  • Go shopping with your runner and help them select snazzy lycra fashion statements.

Physical Touch

  • Learn to give full-body massages, but start with the back and feet if that sounds intimidating. There are many YouTube videos explaining how to give a (nearly) professional-level sports massage. Be gentle— growing muscles are sensitive.
  • Assist your runner in caring for their body: help apply sunscreen, bandage boo-boos, wrap them in a thermal blanket after long distance runs to conserve heat.
  • Post-marathon, help your runner shower (bow chicka wow wow) and then snuggle with them for about 30 minutes until they fall into the most satisfying night of sleep of their life.

Gifts

Words of Affirmation

  • Remind your runner how hard they trained when they’ve got pre-race jitters.
  • Create funny signs and meet your runner along the course.
  • Write a letter for your runner to read before heading to the starting line.
  • Send your runner a few encouraging texts/pictures of corgi puppies throughout a race (but clear this with them beforehand, they might not like the interruption.)

Acts of Service

  • Drive your runner to the starting line on race day, or drop them off at a training location so they don't have to drive tired or concern themselves with parking.
  • If you live together, clean up the house before race day so they'll come home to a cozy, uncluttered cocoon of rest.
  • Runners go through laundry like nobody's business. Add their gym wear to your loads if you have the space (and the stomach for stinky socks.)
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Love,

Abi

MAKE YOUR REST DAYS FEEL LIKE A VACATION

RELAX! SERIOUSLY. RELAX.

Especially in the first week of training, where you’re running fewer miles than your base mileage, you might have so much energy that you’re compelled to run straight through your rest day.

Don't.

Rest days are your body's time to grow. While you chillax, your body's healing powers are hard at work repairing tiny tears in your muscles. Your speed exercises, crunches, pigeon poses, whatever, blossom into calves of steel and lobster-monster-abs. Just the same as you need to recharge by sleeping, you need to recharge during your waking hours, too.

Instead of thinking of your rest days like an imprisonment, think of them like a hard-earned vacation. If you're super type-A, think of your rest day as an assignment. Abi Grise hereby tasks you to chill.

EPSOM SALT: BATHE IN SCIENCE

Your grandma knows what's up. Epsom salt baths have been used for hundreds of years to soothe aching muscles and arthritis. Epsom salt is magnesium sulfate, which comes from natural springs in the boonies of England. In water, the magnesium and sulfates split and supposedly absorb into your skin. Light some candles, put on Barry Manilow, and cheers, mate.

YIN YOGA: PRACTICE LOOKING DEAD

My yoga studio, We Yogis, has three amazing classes for restoration. Yin yoga is like a traditional vinyasa flow class in slow-mo. You'll complete maybe one sun salutation (which is sort of like one lap around a track, for you new yogis) and then hold single poses for 3 - 5 minutes.

We Yogis' deep stretch class is great for learning how to relax within a pose. Have you ever found yourself clenching your jaw or tensing your arms in a pose which is supposed to stretch your legs? This class will help you isolate your stretch to your target muscle. In turn, you'll actually be able to go deeper, since you won't be expending energy in other places of your body.

Do NOT take a traditional vinyasa flow or sculpt class on your rest day. Stick to yin, slow, and restorative classes. If you're on the floor 75% of the time, you're in the right class.

UPDATE YOUR RUNNING LOG

I've said it once before; it is never a waste of time to reflect on the gift of your health or life. Your rest days are the opportune time to capture the highlights and struggles of your training.

I use the Runkeeper app to retain notes on my progress, so I can zoom out later and see larger patterns on how my diet, sleep, and stress levels affect my training. For instance, that time I left the note "Don't eat catfish before runs anymore. Ain't nobody want fish burps."

GETCHA NAILS DONE, GIRL

Forget "butterfaces," runners are "butterfeets." Running has defined my calves, thighs, butt, abs, and even my arms a smidge. But my feet? Less dainty these days, more gnarly.

Give your feet a little love. I use Burt's Bees coconut foot cream to soften heel dryness. Don't shave off your callouses, though; super slick feet slide around your shoe and cause blisters. I also paint my toenails, usually with glittery or neon colors to detract from the surrounding blisters, callouses, and other signs of abuse. If you live in Dallas, I suggest NailsNow on Greenville avenue. Ask for Mae, girl knows what's up.

Call me a hippie, but I also use painting my toes as a meditation on thankfulness. I used to be embarrassed of my slightly-webbed, weirdly squishy looking toes (which my mother lovingly referred to as "potato toes.") Now I know they've carried me farther than some people mosey in a lifetime.

Foot-five, potato toes. You. Rock.

TEXAN-APPROVED HACKS TO RUNNING IN THE HEAT

Youch! It’s hot. Wringing-out-your-socks-hot. Running through summer is not for the weak. Add the risks of dehydration, chaffing, and sun damage, and it can feel like you’re playing with fire in more ways than one.

Here are some Texan-approved ways to survive summer running, including products I actually use. (No paid endorsements here!)

#1. Wear light, tight socks.

Loose cotton socks are the worst culprits for blisters because they soak up your sweat like a sponge and allow your foot to slide around inside your shoe. Always wash new athletic socks before taking them for a test-run to rinse any weird chemicals out of the fibers.

#2. Hide bottles of Powerade in the bushes.

Make yourself the Easter Bunny of hydration this summer. Cruise by your running path before long runs to drop off sports drinks. Pick shady areas out of sight from landscapers or your homeowners association. Sharpie a messages on the bottles, such as "BRB. Do not remove," or "Poison."

#3. Bring a handkerchief.

Sweat streaming into your eyes stings like the dickens. Additionally, if you don't slow your roll at the drink stations along your half marathon course, you might accidentally splash Gatorade directly into your eyeballs. Not that I've done that. If you have mermaid/merman locks, tie a handkerchief around your ponytail for easy access.

#4. Slick up with BodyGlide.

In the super gross words of Pitbull, you’ll want to be “slicker than an oil spill” to evade chaffing in the heat. Chaffing occurs when sensitive areas of your skin, such as your thighs, underarms, nips, or private parts, are rubbed raw from friction. Worse, your salty sweat can exacerbate these wounds, and you might bleed. Yeah, ow/ew.

I use the stick-style BodyGlide on my thighs and underarms. You could also use Vasoline, although it’s a bit thick for my taste.

#5. Take Chapstick.

In case the BodyGlide glides right off your body, you might opt to keep a tube of Chapstick on your race belt to use as a spot-treatment for chaffing on the go. Plus, Chapstick is a twofold lifesaver by protecting your lips from sunburn as well. Speaking of which...

#6. Lather up that sunscreen.

Take it from me, your token ginger friend: wear sunscreen. Melanoma is killer, literally. I sprits myself with spray-style sunscreen before leaving the house, but keep a squeeze-tube in my car. Why? Because aerosol cans are explosive, literally.

That's all, folks. Except.... do you need new podcasts this summer? I've got those, too.

6 PODCASTS PERFECT FOR LONG RUNS

So. You've already mastered all the mind-games in the book, and you're looking for audible entertainment to help you cruise through your Sunday Funday long runs. Let me help.

Whether you're interested in true crime, business development, psychology, or hollywood, I've got a little bug for every runner's ear.

#1. How I Built This

Warning: How I Built This will inspire you to do crazy things, like launch your running blog. Hosted by Guy Raz, this podcast tells the stories of the category disruptors, entrepreneurs, and accidental billionaires who created today’s breakout brands like Spanx, Airbnb, and Instagram. The thing all these masterminds have in common? They neverminded naysayers, even when it meant sleeping under their desks at night with only a dream to keep them warm.

Average Episode Length: 45 Minutes

Notable Episodes: #2 Spanx: Sara Blakely, #4 Radio One: Cathy Hughs, #5 Clif Bar: Gary Erikson,#6 VICE: Suroosh Alvi,  #12 Southwest Airlines: Herb Keller, #15 Patagonia: Yvon Chouinard

#2. You Must Remember This

You Must Remember This, narrated by Karina Longworth, steps into the golden ages of cinema to give you the dish on old Hollywood, painting portraits of notorious stars like Jane Fonda, Wendy Davis, Humphrey Bogart, Jimmy Stewart, and even Charles Manson. Get the drama behind the drama, in a storytelling format that takes a surprisingly deep, sociological look at American history. Karina might just be a master of paradox by making an exclusively audible show about a visual art absolutely sing.

Average Episode Length: 1 Hour

Notable Episodes: #13 Bogey Before Bacall #14 Bacall After Bogey #28 Star Wars Episode II: Carole Lombard and Clark Gable, #44- 54 Charles Manson’s Hollywood, #92 Six Degrees of Joan Crawford

#3. Crimetown

Crimetown has the energy of a paperback thriller. You’ll forget the crooked politicians, bank robbers, kidnappers, wolf-tamers, extortionists, undercover agents, mob bosses and drug mules were real people playing a part in the deeply corrupt mob state that was Providence, Rhode Island in the 1980’s. The show is hosted by Zac Stuart-Pontier and Marc Smerling, seasoned professionals when it comes to interviewing people with blood on their hands— they also produced The Jinx: The Life and Death of Robert Durst, which I recommend you watch with your eyeballs on Hulu during Zero Week.

Average Episode Length: 30 Minutes

Notable Episodes: Listen in chronological order.

#4. Personality Hacker

You’ve probably heard the adage “running is therapy” and listening to Personality Hacker on low-key long runs is the perfect way to introspect with precision. Hosts Antonia Dodge and Joel Mark Witt tricked me into self-improvement after I naïvely assumed their podcast was merely about Myers Briggs Personality Types. That’s just one tool they discuss. If you’ve ever been frustrated with one-size-fits-all philosophies on how to live with purpose, Personality Hacker is a breath of fresh, self-actualized air.

Average Episode Length: 40 Minutes

Notable Episodes: #79 What We Resist Persists #143 How Personality Types Relate to Money, #167 Personality Type and Making Projects Happen, #176 Self Ownership and Personal Sovereignty,

#5. Criminal

Every episode of Criminal centers on a true-life crime, spanning centuries, continents, and varying levels of gruesomeness. The host, Phoebe Judge, narrates each story in a ghost-story-appropriate whisper, whether she’s reciting the legend of a beheaded woman haunting the Ohio river, or explaining the black market for venus flytraps. I recommend listening to Criminal anytime except while trail running solo at dusk.

Average Episode Length: 30 Minutes

Notable Episodes: #5 Dropping Like Flies, #15 He’s Neutral, #22 Ex Libris, #51 The Money Tree

#6. S-Town

If Serial was a pop song, S-Town is a symphony. On the surface, S-Town is the true-life story of a brilliant man fed up with his close-minded community in rural Alabama. But you will discover that every time S-Town seems like it’s going to play a predictable, satisfying chord, it strikes an unexpected note. The host, Brian Reed, expertly navigates the story away from investigative journalism towards a complex and emotional portrait of a man spiraling out.

Average Episode Length: 50 Minutes

Notable Episodes: Listen in chronological order.

HOW TO HANDLE LACKLUSTER SUPPORT AS A NEW RUNNER

*SPOILER ALERT: The answer is becoming more supportive yourself.

The whole concept of personal growth is that you, yourself, and you, are the one growing. No one else is required. That said, sometimes when you hone in on your physical or mental wellbeing, a change in your priorities can trigger insecurities from people around you.

This phenomenon is especially relevant to new runners. After your first marathon, you might reasonably expect fist bumps and high fives from your social circle. But occasionally someone you love responds with, “Why on earth would you do that?”

Cue your hard-won enthusiasm, deflating with a whimper of disappointment.

When you adopt a healthier lifestyle, people notice. The difference might be physical—your body fat percentage, muscle definition. Or the difference is a shift in your lifestyle—you don’t close down Boozy Lou’s Dive Bar on Friday night because you plan to do hill repeats on Big Bertha at 6 AM. You order a quinoa salad instead of cheese fries.

And there you are, enjoying the shit out of your quinoa salad, while your friend eyeballs the nacho cheese melting off the crinkle fry in their hand and they say something like, "I wish you’d ordered cheese fries, too. You're making me feel fat."

Humans love affirmation. Verbal affirmation: “You can totally pull off bangs!” Nonverbal affirmation: Handshakes and bear hugs. Indirect affirmation: An acquaintance 'liked' that you joined the Pantsuit Nation Facebook group.

We’re pack animals. Affirmation validates our sense of safety within our respective tribes. We crave acceptance because in caveman days, being ousted from society was a death sentence. If you didn't follow the rules of the pack leaders, you were shunned and left by yourself to become tiger food. 

In the urban wilds of modern society, the threat of being eaten by a tiger is negligible. But the fear of being rejected and left for dead, at least socially, remains. It’s just that instead of bringing the most dominant lion a mangled porcupine as a gesture of goodwill, you’re following them on Instagram.

Unfortunately, with shitty boundaries, we take affirmation too far. If someone in our close circle of friends or family starts to color out of the lines by exploring ideals different than the ones we hold sacred—say, attending a religious service, experimenting with polygamy, adopting a family of ferrets, starting an active lifestyle/losing weight/gaining self confidence, we panic.

We think, They can’t just do that, it was in our unspoken social contract that we’re friends because we’re not like those zealous, polygamist, beach-body, ferret-snugglers!

 No human is immune to judgment. If judgment is the glue holding your friendship together, you’re going to fall apart when one or both of you outgrows those strict parameters. If your relationship is dependent on an identity of us vs. them – we’re liberals against conservatives, we're atheists against zealots, we’re sober Salleys against YOLO partiers…. then your relationship is two-dimensional; you’re not appreciating one another as complex, evolving individuals.

Remember that your friend does not hate your salad. They hate their cheese fries.

Resentment is toxic. And frequently, resentment says more about the resentful party than the resented. Your choice to start running, go vegan, get a nose job, be a stay-at-home parent, backpack through Europe, whatever, is a threat to an insecure person’s identity within their paradigms. Sorry, but it’s not about you—it’s scary for people to see others explore or succeed because it means maybe they’re wrong about their own choices, or worse, incapable of doing the same as you.

So what do you do if you embark on a healthy lifestyle and your support system is suddenly not so supportive? Talk. There’s no guarantee you'll get the response you’d prefer, but if the relationship is valuable to you and it’s dying on the table, it deserves your effort. Let them know you’re hurt, and provide instructions on how you’d like to be supported.

Say, “I know you don’t get long-distance running. But it would mean a lot to me if you came to my next 5K."

It might take the people in your life time to accept that you've changed. But when you give them a big, sweaty hug at the finish line and thank them for being there, they might begin to see that you're still you underneath your newfound glorious abs.

Flip-side: Does this mean if your friend changes in a way you don’t like you're obligated to hang out with them?

Not necessarily. Having things in common is important in a match, and not every friendship needs to connect on a deep, spiritual level. But if this is someone you love and want to play a role in your life, you might want to adjust your perspective. Do you really want to throw away a decade-long friendship because they started a home improvement blog and the thought of attending estate sales to find antique drawer-pulls gives you a case of the "ew"s?

Own your choices. Say you’re a long distance runner and recently adopted a nutrient-rich diet. Great! This does not mean when your friend eats a Snickers that you get to hate on them for being such a trans-fat-snogging-slob. What’s probably going on here, if you’re having judgmental thoughts, is that you wish you had the freedom to eat a Snickers, too.

Newsflash! You do have the freedom to eat a Snickers. No one is going to stop you from buying 400 bars from Costco and going to town until you puke, die, or slip into a diabetic coma.

You chose to select a nutrient-rich diet to fit your priorities instead. Own that. Your choice is not your Snickers-eating friend’s problem. It’s yours. Think “Yay for them, not for me.”

As they say in Thailand, we're the "same, same, but different." The more you can appreciate the differences in those around you, the more you realize everyone on this earth wants the same basic things: survival, enjoyment, to love and be loved.

At first glance, you might not understand why your Cross-fitting friend loves to push tractor wheels around a parking lot. So dig deeper. Can you relate to the feeling of exhilaration you get when pushing the limits of your own strength?

If your friend is sharing their personal growth with you, it’s because they like you. Your paleo friend is telling you about their turf-and-turf dinner because they value your companionship. Take it as a compliment. No one owes you their story—it’s a gift.

Be the change you want to see. Be supportive and open-minded and you’ll attract supportive and open-minded friends. You can’t control your friend’s reaction to your quinoa salad order, but you can support their choice to order cheese fries.

Not everyone will be in the right headspace to hop aboard the self-improvement train with you. But those who value self-improvement will see your accomplishments for what they are, instead of a threat to the tribe. They’ll respect your 100% unique complexity. The best part? You'll grow a little closer by sharing a genuine affirmation. No lions, Instagram follows, or ferret-shaming necessary.

SUPERCHARGE YOUR HALF MARATHON WITH HILL REPEATS

*and tone your butt.

Good news. After three months of intense training on my Totally Bananas Advanced Half Marathon Training Plan, I completed the Fort Worth Jalapeno Half with a new PR: 1 hour, 44 minutes. I was the eighth woman out of 198 to cross the finish line, and, I placed fourth in my division. I nearly limped home with a trophy!

I shaved 34 seconds from my former half marathon PR. How? Getting in bed with my mortal enemy: a snaking hill alongside White Rock Lake we’ll call Big Bertha.

Big Bertha’s incline is a nightmare; you can’t even see the top. She bakes in the Texas sun throughout the day, and, thanks to the nearby dam, collects swarms of kamikaze gnats at sunset. The sidewalk is wavy with both emanating heat waves and delirium.

This spring, I scaled Big Bertha again and again, like a self-flagellation exercise from the Inferno. I sprinted up Big Bertha anywhere from three to ten times in one workout.

You have a Big Bertha, too. Think of that one annoying hill you’d run five extra miles to avoid. The one that leaves you breathless in an unsexy way. Yeah, THAT ONE. RUN UP THAT HILL LIKE YOU MEAN IT.*

*And then jog back down because dissension is harder on your joints than ascension.

Kenyans aren’t fast because they eat their Wheaties. They train on their natural landscape—(breathtaking) mountains and hills. They’re running up hills with inclines anywhere from 3% to 20%.

Conventional wisdom is to do repeats on hills on a 6% to 20% grade incline. I can hear you now: what the fuck does that look like, Abi?  Well, There are many scientific ways to calculate incline, even for the mathematically, erm, disinclined.

Does “rise over run” ring any bells? It's the formula for slope you learned in seventh grade. And the two bits of information you need to plug into this equation can be found on Google Maps.

How to Calculate The Slope of a Big, Dumb Hill Using Google Maps:

Find your Big Bertha-esque hill on Google Maps and drop pins at both the bottom of the hill, and the top. The distance between these two points is your run. To find the rise, subtract the altitude of the pin at the bottom of the hill from the altitude of the pin at the top. Divide your rise by your run, and multiply the answer by 100. Voila! You’re so NASA right now!

But don’t forget: it’s not the percent incline that counts, it’s how much you hate it. If you don’t hate your Big Bertha, you need a Bigger Bertha.

My Totally Bananas Advanced Half Marathon Training Plan, which you can steal for free, alternates rolling hills and Big Bertha repeats once a week. I suggest alternating between incline intensities because hill training for the first time is rough. Too much repetition in your workouts over a short succession leaves no time to heal.

Thanks to hill training, I was able to squeak past other serious runners at the Jalapeno Half. Hills slowed other runners down, but didn't zap my energy because once you've scaled your Big Bertha a few times and scraped a couple hundred gnats off your sweaty face, your race is a cakewalk.

Now excuse me, it's recovery week, and I've got to catch up on Orange Is The New Black and chow down on some loaded nachos.

THE LEAST INFURIATING WAY TO TAPER FOR A RACE

After months of training through a fiery late spring you made it to taper week! WHEW! You battled the blisters, chub rub, increasingly shorter shorts, and gallons of sweat. Now, you can finally let down your super tangled hair, relax, and coast through taper week. By running less than 40% of your average mileage, you'll have time to sleep in, catch up with old friends, and stuff your face at endless pasta bowl nights.

WRONG.

Taper week is misery. You have all the energy in the world and no escape valve with which to release it. You’re ravenous, snippy, impatient, sleepless, and full of self-doubt.

It doesn’t matter how many races you’ve run—taper week is always a bitch. But I bring you good news: the pent up frustration making taper week so terrible is exactly what makes it effective. Hungry dogs fight for food; Antsy humans run faster marathons. Soak up that delicious rage—you’re going to wield it as a weapon later.

In the meantime, here’s how to survive taper week:

#1. Don’t run more than 40% of your second to last week’s mileage. Seriously, don’t. Now is not the time to prove to yourself that you can finish the race by…. finishing the race two days earlier and being unable to do it twice. You have one shot, so keep it in your holster. Go easy, tiger.

#2. Assuming your race is in the morning, wake at the time you’ll need to wake for the race every day that week. Our bodies take time to adapt. You’ll digest your breakfast better, be able to anticipate your potty needs, and know what the world looks like at 6 AM.

#3. Warn your family, friends, and coworkers, that taper week might influence your demeanor. This isn’t an excuse for bad behavior—be nice. But give them a head’s up so they’ll know that now is not a good time to bring up touchy subjects, like having your deadbeat brother crash on your couch for an indefinite period of time, or that you want to adopt a family of ferrets.

#4. Don’t go buy new race clothes or shoes. You don’t want to gamble with breaking in new shoes on race day. Don’t let your vanity cripple you to a hobble by the finish line. Wear something you’ve worn on at least one long run to the race, so you know it doesn’t have a weird, rage-inducing seam, itchy tag, or underwire stabbing into your chest.

BONUS: Wearing red makes you faster, says psychology here.

#5. Take time to reflect on your training before it’s colored by your race results. Write down memorable runs, good and bad. Did you try a different technique? These are things you’ll be glad you documented down the road while you’re perfecting your own training plan. Which, by the way, you can check mine out here.

#6. Stretch, but not too hard. I take a yoga class designed for athletes—poses are held for a long time (1 – 3 minutes) and there is a guided meditation. I don’t sweat, my heart rate does not increase, and instead I simply feel relaxed. Let those muscles heal with a little warmth.

Hopefully I’ll take my own advice and let you know how well this worked out for me tomorrow at Dallas Fort-Worth’s Jalapeno Half. More on that later this week!

 

MOTIVATION MIND GAMES WHILE RUNNING LONG DISTANCES

I’m an expert at lying to myself. Luckily, when it comes to long distance training, that’s considered a useful skill. Here are some hat tricks for maintaining motivation on difficult runs, including Third Eye Blind, Math, and Straight Up Lying.

Consider this totally hypothetical situation:

After a two-week hiatus from your running schedule, you return from vacationing in Thailand with a belly full of dragon fruit cocktails, pad thai, and tamarind candy. You feel as bloated and happy as Buddha.

Your first run back is scheduled to be an average, easy five miles. But your internal clock thinks it’s 3AM, you’re pretty sure that soy sauce from that Air-Asia in-flight meal had 1,000% your recommended daily value of sodium, and you inbox contains a nearly unintelligible web of conversations begging for your attention.

Those five miles suddenly look as long and endless as the Pacific Ocean did out the eyelids of your  airplane window.

So, what do you do?

Mental Game #1: Straight Up Lying

Tell yourself you’re only going three miles. Once you hit three miles, check in. Do you feel like you can keep going to four? Yes! Check back in at four miles. Can you keep going? Yes!

Our bodies never (ok, rarely) let us take on a task too exhausting for our own good. You know how your gaslight goes on with about fifty more miles to go? Same principal. Just don’t keep going if you’re seriously hurt and running on fumes. That’s when you get injured.

Mental Game #2: Fractions

I’m not mathematically inclined. I like concepts and get bored with details. Which means I frequently fudge up math problems by making simple errors—misplacing a decimal, etc. But doing simple math problems—what fraction of a mile do I have left to run?— is a simple enough game to distract myself from my dragging feet.

Mental Game #3: I Am Thankful For

Dedicate each mile of your run to someone in your life. The easiest people to dedicate your miles to are role models, friends, family, or significant others. Think about their significance in your life story, your fondest memories together, and brainstorm ideas for enriching your relationship.

BONUS: Dedicate a mile to someone who challenges your ability to be compassionate. Thank them for presenting you with an opportunity to grow. It might be difficult at first, but try to imagine what their goals, joys, and struggles in life might be.

 Mental Game #3: Sing, You Weirdo

Hands down, the most difficult runs for me are when I somehow forget my blasted earbuds at home. Listening to my own breath makes me acutely aware of my own brief and insignificant life slipping away into the universe. There is a thin line between Abi shamelessly jamming to Shape of You and Abi dissolved into a puddle of existential ennui.

So what do I do? I salvage this rookie mistake by literally mouthing the words to songs I memorized as a kid-- you know, 90's hits you'd find on the NOW THAT’S WHAT I CALL MUSIC CDs you left in your mom's attic.

Semi-Charmed Life has gotten me through some rough miles, y’all.

YES, BASE-MILEAGE BURNOUT IS A THING.

Running slower for seemingly no good reason? Maybe you're bored.

After completing a marathon last December, I was dead set on resuming a training schedule to maintain peak fitness. For lack of better ideas, I returned to my base mileage while exploring race options.

My base mileage was five miles on a track looping around my apartment complex. It was just as mundane as you’re picturing, plus or minus occasional ducks.

Without a particular race to train for or a coach’s advice, I coasted on my five-mile average runs. But instead of maintaining my strength, my legs felt heavy. Worse, I sighed, exasperated, while lacing my sneakers in the morning.

I assumed I’d either lost strength during my post-marathon sabbatical, or two weeks of rest wasn’t enough. Both of these factors can slow runners down, but, turns out, my struggle was psychological: I was bored.

In an effort to step up my speed, I researched Fartleks. Giggle if you want, but Fartlek is the Swedish word for “speed play”. Fartlek runs are considered either “structured” or “creative.” Both exercises involve alternating between sprinting at maximum speed and jogging for recovery.

Fartleks make your legs, lungs, and heart stronger—any running at a faster speed than your used to will. But they also can regenerate your excitement if you get “base-mileage burnout” like I did.

My pace skyrocketed immediately—and it wasn’t because one session of fartleks worked my muscles that hard. It was because I was excited about running again!

As a runner, you need to know how to feed yourself. Often, this includes a variety of bagel toppings and working peanut butter into every meal/between meals/ as a meal. You also need to feed your mind.

Little known secret: Most runners aren’t going the distance because of genetics or luck. If you can master the mind game of endurance, self-bargaining, optimism, and resilience, you can run long distances.

However, one mental game I’d failed to see for years was that you also need to feed yourself inspiration and creativity while you train.

 

Structured Fartlek Run Example

5 minute jog warm-up

.25 mile sprint

.25 mile jog

.25 mile sprint

.25 mile jog

 .25 mile sprint

.25 mile jog

.25 mile sprint

.25 mile jog

5 minute cool-down

 

Unstructured Fartleks Run Example

5 minute jog warm-up

Sprint until you pass ten trees

Jog until you pass ten trees

Sprint until you hit an intersection

Jog until you hit an intersection

Sprint until you pass a dog walker

Jog until you pass another dog walker

Sprint for the length of a song

Jog for the length of a song

5 minute cool-down

 

Include Fartleks in your training only one day a week to start. You don’t want to risk actual burnout or injury. Personally, I add one extra sprinting/jogging set to my schedule every week.

Happy trails, Fartlekers.