Rest, recovery and the perfect chocolate shake

What’s the difference between overtraining and under-recovery? In practice, probably very little. Fatigue, poor performance, and poor sleep are signs of both. When I last left you, I thought I was an overtraining wreck. Now, two months and a 6-week break later, I think under-recovery might be a more likely culprit.

According to this post on Core 3 Training, seven signs of under-recovery are:

1. Workouts seem more like work than training.
2. You’re weaker from week to week with the same movements.
3. You’re sore all the time.
4. Your spouse or friends keep asking what’s wrong with you.
5. You toss and turn at night.
6. Your heart rate is higher or lower than normal.
7. Your heart rate variability is less variable than normal.

During my workout hiatus, I ran the gamut of tests to determine the cause of my symptoms. Blood tests for ferritin, cortisol, and thyroid-type issues came back normal. As did an adrenal stress index (for the most part) and test for DHEA levels. Not at all shockingly, given Seattle’s record-breaking rainy winter, one thing that’s low is my Vitamin D. But that’s an easy fix. I have two full bottles of Vitamin D supplements from the last time someone told me to take them.

So what’s left? A giant hole in my recovery nutrition. Which probably plays a huge role in my sleep issues. This article on Breaking Muscle sheds more light on this subject:

Eat More. Food is essential to restore muscles after an intense workout. The harder you train, the more food you need to eat. The amount of fuel you eat will either make or break you, and far too often athletes under-eat for a few reasons:

Lack of preparation or planning.
Blunted hunger due to elevated cortisol (stress) levels from intense training.
Thinking they are eating enough.

I am only guilty of all of the above. After consulting with a nutritionist, I have a plan that consists of increasing not only overall intake, but carbs in particular. She uses this formula to calculate a competitive runner’s total carbohydrate needs:

3.6 to 4.5 grams of carbohydrate per pound of body weight per day

In other words, a shit ton. As much as I love bread, a person can only eat so much of it. But smoothies are a great way to add carbs, protein, and whatever else you want to add to your diet. I love this recipe that I’ve adapted from the Oh She Glows Cookbook. It totally rocks.

Perfect recovery chocolate shake

I can’t stop making this. It tastes like a chocolate milkshake and yet contains zero refined sugar. More importantly, it’s entirely whole food based, so you know exactly what you are putting into your body.

Ingredients

1 cup milk (whichever type you use)
2 medjool dates, pitted and cut in half
1 Tbsp. cocoa powder
1/8 avocado
1/4 banana, peeled and frozen (I keep a ziploc bag of these in my freezer)
2 tsp. almond butter
splash vanilla extract
1/4-1/2 tsp. espresso powder (if desired)
4-6 ice cubes (less for a creamier shake, more for an icier one)

Combine everything in a blender and mix into the perfect recovery shake. You’ll need a good blender for this one. Happy recovery!

The fallacy of a photo: Hiding a meltdown

Beware what you see on social media. What you see is not necessarily what you get. On the face of it, this is not the picture of someone in the middle of a major meltdown.

Photo finish, hiding a meltdown

2017 Seahawks 12k

Yet Sunday’s Seahawks 12k win actually served to confirm the fact that yes, this is someone in the middle of a major meltdown. Though I out-kicked the woman who passed me at the 7 mile mark and held off by 1 second the #3 runner (who became #2 at the finish), my finish time of 47:09 was almost two minutes slower than the last time I ran it in 2015. Which is, and this is by no means meant to disparage anyone else’s finish time, an indication that all is not right with me.

According to this Bodybuilding.com post on overtraining, 10 signs of overtraining include:

Persistent muscle soreness
Elevated resting heart rate
Increased susceptibility to infections
Increased incidence of injuries
Irritability
Depression
Loss of motivation
Insomnia
Decreased appetite
Weight loss

Well, I’m hitting just about all of those. And if I’m really honest with myself, probably have on and off since late last summer. Sunday’s race quantitatively proved to me that I need to make some changes. I just hope I haven’t arrived at this realization too late.

I’m exhausted, yet I can’t sleep. I haven’t run a great speed workout in months, and my times across the board are climbing. This, of course, leads to stress and irritability, which makes me a terrible mom and spouse. I’m struggling and can no longer deny it.

So, I’ve stopped running and all other workouts. And the giant red flag, if there ever was one: I don’t even miss it. Yes, it’s only been four days. But four unscheduled days off, without illness or injury (oh the irony), should cause nothing but restlessness to run again. Instead, I’m nothing but tired.

My hope is that a rest and recovery break now will enable a return later this summer and into the fall. I cleared my calendar of upcoming races, mourning the loss of my plans for the Top Pot 5k this month and Bloomsday 12k in May. I’m sad and scared and hope this isn’t the end of my competitive running.

So, take what you see on Facebook with a grain of salt. Though that photo might look victorious, it hides a less rosy reality.

Searching for my #runhappy: 3 days in the life

Three days into my quest to find my #runhappy and right the proverbial overtraining ship, and I think I’m performing at a solid “B” level. Given the Type-A behavior that got me here, maybe less-than-perfect isn’t such a bad thing.

Last Wednesday I skipped a hill workout. Friday I bailed on intervals, and Saturday I set out to make some changes. It may be too soon to celebrate.

Saturday
6:30 a.m. Eight hours of sleep and I’m raring to go. An off-day with a leisurely morning until the kids’ sports start at 10:00, I have plenty of time to make a smoothie and eat a good breakfast. Things are looking good.

10:15 a.m. Arrival at the Bainbridge soccer field for Alexa’s game. Mike and Colin are on the ferry to Seattle for Colin’s lacrosse game. My cousin Dave is with me and we’ll meet Mike and Colin in Seattle after soccer.

11:20 a.m. Game started at 11. Looking at my watch and wondering if our coach who is doubling as referee has decided to skip halftime. Damn. We’re only 20 minutes into the game.

11:30 a.m. Halftime. Starting to shiver and getting psyched to consume something warm.

12:30 p.m. Freezing cold, but survived the game. Picking up lunch and a latte on the way to the ferry. Making some solid protein choices at the salad and hot food bar. We’re headed to Pike Place Market anyway, so there will be plenty of snacking opportunities ahead.

Pike Place Market #runhappy

3:45 p.m. Fun afternoon showing Dave our favorite Pike Place Market haunts and getting him with the monk fish prank at Pike Place Fish. Just missed the ferry so it’s on to Uwajimaya to pick up food for dinner.

7:30 p.m. Said goodbye to Dave who visited briefly on his way to ski at Whistler (poor guy). Feeling good about my day of spectating and eating. I think my overtraining is a thing of the past.

Sunday
6 a.m. Up a little earlier than I need to be to meet my Sunday morning group run. But that’s okay, more time for my warm-up routine.

9:15 a.m. 10 1/2 miles done, yet I haven’t really consumed anything so far today. I’m about to remedy that with a protein smoothie.

10:00 a.m. Grazing on carrots and hummus, cheese and other odds and ends in the refrigerator. This whole multiple breakfast thing is hard when you’re starting this late in the morning.

11:45 a.m. Need to get some things done so decide to skip Breakfast 2 since lunch is right around the corner. Trying to balance the checkbook but my brain is addled and it takes me 25 minutes to realize I was still counting a cleared transaction. I think it’s time for lunch.

5:00 p.m. Early dinner at Bella Luna/Scratch Kitchen for Colin’s birthday. Order chicken on my salad to go with the “Little Piggy” pizza. I hope I’m making up for this morning’s breakfast lapse.

9:15 p.m. Still full from dinner, decide to skip a pre-bed snack.

11:00 p.m. Still awake. Grab a snack of nuts, an orange and some pita chips. Now regretting that skipped second breakfast.

Monday
6:20 a.m. 7 hours of sleep doesn’t feel terrible. In the next 2 hours I have a kid to get to the school bus, dogs to walk and a breakfast/school bag shuttle for the other kid who is currently at early morning swim practice. I shovel some nuts into my mouth.

8:30 a.m. I have a kid on the bus, breakfast and swim gear exchanged, and dogs that are walked. Given that Mondays are early release school days (thanks for that, Bainbridge Island School District), I have less time to run and grocery shop before the kids return home. But my coach scheduled a much shorter run for today. A mere 5 miles is less than half of the 12-miler I ran last Monday. Does this even count as running? I’m tempted to add, but what’s the point of a coach if you don’t listen to him? At least I should have plenty of time to complete everything by lunchtime.

8:35 a.m. Realize I haven’t really eaten breakfast. On the way out the door I microwave a quesadilla. 2 corn tortillas, shredded cheese, 30 seconds. I got this recipe from Colin. Perhaps I’m not really nailing it yet today.

10:00 a.m. 5 miles (*might* have been closer to 6 if anyone was really clocking it) done and I’m not as exhausted as a typical Monday. In and out of the shower quickly; I’m at least 45 minutes ahead of schedule.

12:55 p.m. Somewhere along the way I lost a whole lot of time. Running into one of my favorite friends at the store set me back a bit. But shooting the sh*t with her was so much more entertaining than whatever else I needed to be doing. And now my other friend has just brought me Girl Scout Cookies. I spend the time I need to catch up with her too. My groceries are melting on the kitchen counter. I won’t make it to the bus stop today. I think everyone/thing will survive.

1:45 p.m. The thing that unfortunately did not survive was my lunch hour. This is typical for me: I get busy, the time for a meal blows by and I either skip it and try to catch up at the next one, or graze as I go. Fortunately, I have leftover salad from last night. But I definitely couldn’t say that I’m three good meals into the day.

The day isn’t over but I feel Saturday night’s cockiness slipping away. Perhaps this performance rates closer to a C+. Finding my #runhappy might take more than one good day. But I’m working on it.

Training hard or overtraining? A break from the crazy train.

It seems next to impossible that my low mileage running could possibly lead to overtraining. In general, my weekly average mileage hovers around the mid-thirties. When I’m really in the thick of things, it tops out in the mid-forties. But that’s about as high as it gets. Given those numbers, overtraining seems like the unlikeliest of afflictions.

But then there are the signs. I’m exhausted, yet slept less than 4 hours on Tuesday night. I’m sure those around me would say that I’m crabby. It’s been some time since I’ve really nailed a workout. And every run feels like a battle with the weather.

So Wednesday I took an unscheduled day off. Today I started an interval workout on the track under a downpour and gusting winds. After struggling through two 400s and a slow 1600m, I bailed. I’ve been trying to keep up with the crazy train and just can’t do it this week.

My hope is that in preserving some amount of sanity today I can come back and hit it next week. I have a race in Virginia Beach in two weeks and this is not the time for an epic meltdown. Can you fudge your way out of overtraining? The Runners Connect site has one article that seems to say yes. But another that takes a longer-term approach. Obviously, I like the first one.

Entitled “Eating Yourself Out of Overtraining” (I’m liking this already), it looks at this as a refueling issue.

The first thing a runner has to look at when they’re overly tired or possibly overtained is the amount of calories they’re taking in on a daily basis. The reality is, most runners do not eat enough calories to fuel their calorie expenditure. This lack of calories means the muscles aren’t getting the nutrients and fuel they need to recover.

Eating more instead of running less? Sign me up, that certainly sounds a lot better than taking six months off. I’ve got some whey powder to throw at this problem. They even include a sample menu, though I’m honestly not sure it sounds like more food than I’m used to.

Wake-up: Whey protein shake (to stop nighttime catabolic process)
Breakfast 1: Oatmeal with berries (raspberry, blueberry, or blackberries) and wheat germ. Honey for taste.
Breakfast 2: Reduced fat Greek yogurt with fruit
Lunch: Grilled chicken sandwhich and small spinach salad with peppers, broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, tuna, and sunflower seeds. Use a small amount of olive oil or mandarin oranges for dressing if needed.
Midday snack: Oranges or handful of nuts (Brazilian, walnut, pistachio)
Dinner: Salmon with brown rice and asparagus
Nighttime snack: Cottage cheese with strawberries.
Post workout nutrition: Recovery drink or Gatorade and Powerbar.

If anyone has any advice, I’m all ears. In the meantime, I’ll be hanging out in the kitchen.

The pain train and the recovery run

The pain train is back and it’s taking names. It’s also reintroducing me to the concept of the recovery run.

Friday morning repeated a workout I’ve mentioned before.

1 1/2 miles @ 8:51
1 1/4 miles @ 7:13
1600m @ 5:51
1200m @ 4:23

With 3-4 minutes rest between intervals, this is a workout that challenges not only physically, but mentally as well. The last three intervals got the lactic acid good and pumped and I struggled a bit to get it all done.

Normally after a workout like this I look forward to a full day off. But this week Jim scheduled an easy 5 miler. This looked suspiciously like a “recovery run”, which I’ve always blown off as bullshit code for a run that’s interfering with my rest time. Traditionally I reward myself with a nice day off following a good hard effort. Day after a race? Sit on the couch. Run a crazy hard interval workout? Enjoy a leisurely Saturday morning.

Recovery run

So, it was with some reluctance that I set off for a 5 mile recovery run. I felt a little sore and tired and questioned whether this would do anything aside from exacerbate those qualities. But you know what? As I started running, the soreness and fatigue started to disappear. Keeping the pace easy helped a lot. I maintained a conversation pace the entire way and never felt out of breath. But my legs loosened up and I returned home more energized than I was when I left. This piqued my interest: what’s up with the recovery run?

According to author Matt Fitzgerald on Active.com, the recovery run builds fitness by forcing you to run in a pre-fatigued state.

There is evidence that fitness adaptations occur not so much in proportion to how much time you spend exercising but rather in proportion to how much time you spend exercising beyond the point of initial fatigue in workouts. So-called key workouts (runs that are challenging in their pace or duration) boost fitness by taking your body well beyond the point of initial fatigue.

Recovery workouts, on the other hand, are performed entirely in a fatigued state, and therefore also boost fitness despite being shorter and/or slower than key workouts.

Fitzgerald explains this more in an article on Competitor.com:

In a key workout you experience fatigued running by starting fresh and running hard or far. In a recovery run you start fatigued from your last key workout and therefore experience a healthy dose of fatigued running without having to run hard or far. For this reason, although recovery runs are often referred to as “easy runs,” if they’re planned and executed properly they usually don’t feel very easy.

Elite runners utilize the recovery run throughout their training, as Roy Benson describes in this Runner’s World article. If a 12:48 5k runner trains regularly at 8:00/mile pace, maybe I need to rethink my Saturday mornings. Pancake morning can’t disappear entirely, but maybe it’s worth a little shakeout jog beforehand.

Race debt

It’s the sister ailment to the workout hangover: race debt.

It’s the week after a big race and you want to build on those gains that you must have made while racing. Maybe you tapered a bit and are ready to make up for that lost mileage. You’re fired up. You’re ready to focus on the next race. This is no time to rest, on your laurels or anything else. This is the time to strike!

And your body says, oh no, my friend, it’s time to pay some bills. Sleep debt, energy debt, and muscle debt are hungry creditors and all add up to one thing: race debt.

Lost sleep: If someone were to ask you, in the days leading up to a race, how you’re feeling, you’d answer with a resounding “great”. Because you ARE great. Cool as a cucumber. No problems. But your sleep says otherwise. Maybe it’s an hour less here, 30 fewer minutes there. But it’s less and that’s what matters. Then there’s the post-race night of sleep. You’re still fired up. No use stressing over sleep now, the race is over. What’s one more night? Congratulations, you’re now three nights behind.

Runs before the run: Don’t pretend like you don’t know what I’m talking about.

Portapotties

Mike calls this “The Fear Dump”. Whatever you call it, you’re probably losing some nutrients you don’t normally lose. And then there’s the energy you’re burning, the race day meal(s) you might be missing, and suddenly, you’re behind on fuel.

Race debt food debt

This was my post-race meal at XC club nationals, AKA too tired to leave the hotel to find real food.

This is definitely part of the problem.

Taxed systems: Yes, it might seem like your workouts are harder and longer than the race itself. But there’s something about a race that you can’t replicate in a workout. It’s part of the reason you run faster in a race. Your muscles are working harder. Your cardiovascular system is pumping faster. And when you go out for that long run the next day, or the day after that, and everything hasn’t returned to its regular state, you’re now borrowing against something you don’t currently have: a recovered body.

Now what? If you’re anything like me, you spend a week or two wondering (out loud, to anyone who will listen) why you feel like total crap. If you’re lucky, you get back on top of things and go about your merry way. If not, you get hurt. Or sick. And then, you do what you should have done in the first place: TAKE A BREAK.

DSC_0426

It doesn’t have to be a long one. Maybe it’s an extra day or two more than you had intended. Or maybe it’s a week or three, depending on what you’re recovering from. Race debt is no joke; don’t let your mind tell you otherwise.

I was out for a couple of days this week with a wonky calf. On Monday I slept during the time I should have been running. Will that be enough of a break? We’ll see. I’m hoping to run Beat The Bridge on Sunday. Only time will tell. Race happy, recovery healthy, my friends!

The workout hangover

In my advancing age I have stumbled upon a new phenomenon: the workout hangover. It’s like those hazy Sundays from college, except that the path to getting there wasn’t nearly as much fun.

The symptoms are the same though.

Poor sleep and exhaustion: Who takes a nap at a 5th grade lacrosse game? I do. Right on the sideline, directly on the turf.

Foggy head: My judgmental 8-year-old just accused me of saying “worser”. And repeating the same mundane comment about the weather on the walk home from the bus stop. Just be glad I’m still capable of talking to you, kid.

Dehydration: Probably, though I train my body year-round for this (who likes drinking water??) so that’s harder to say.

I realize that the road to overtraining and injury and that of a killer PR are almost one and the same. I’m doing what I can to remain one step ahead of the line between the two, working to dial in the sleep and nutrition.

But sometimes, that just isn’t enough. Sometimes, after a smoothie and a good breakfast, you’re still shoveling handfuls of Trader Joe’s Sour Cream & Onion Puffs at 9:30 a.m. Sometimes, you really need the big guns.

Don’t judge.

Workout hangover beverages

Emergency situation in progress; glass has been broken

Here’s what you do: start with the Frappuccino. If you have ready access to a Starbucks, get yourself a real one, and not one of those bullshit mini ones they tried to roll out last year. Seriously, what was that? Who’s going to be happy with two ounces of coffee milkshake? But if you’re in a pinch, the bottled stuff will do.

Now give it an hour. If things aren’t so bad, this might be enough to set you right. However, desperate times call for desperate measures. Soda is your friend. Yes, this is my method.

What’s behind all of this angst? The hope for a PR, of course. And these workouts, starting from Friday:

12 x 400m @ :75-:77 pace with 1:30 rest between intervals

It’s the short amount of rest that is the real killer of this workout. Mike and my friend Sal came out to help and I definitely couldn’t have done it without them.

400m track workout

This guy… busts out 400s like they’re nothing.

Then today. Expecting a long run, only to check my Messenger and discover that this is on the agenda:

3 x 1200m @ 4:05 pace

Damn you, technology. In another time that would have been a phone call that came an hour too late.

You’d better believe it’s been a Starbucks kind of day.

A week of workouts powered by protein powder

Welcome to my debate of the moment: To protein powder or not to protein powder?

When it comes to running I am pretty stripped down. Bare bones. No GPS watch, no heart rate monitor. No headphones or music. And no post-workout recovery routine.

As I head into racing season and build up the training, I’m working on the latter. It’s not like this is a completely new concept to me, I’m just slow on the uptake. My friend Renae at McCloud Fitness had been encouraging me to get this going a long time ago. I just didn’t think I was working out hard enough to need it. Silly, I know. But now I’m ready. Better late than never, right?

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the recommended protein intake for athletes is more significant than what I was probably consuming. I started by replacing my post-workout coffee with a glass of milk. Good, but a baby step. Next I went down the rabbit hole of looking into protein powders. Two things struck me.

1. Each option has about a gazillion ingredients that I can’t pronounce.

2. Each option costs like a gazillion dollars.

Part of my hesitation to jump into the protein powder world is my preference for whole foods. I’d rather eat real food than take a supplement, open a bar, or drink a shake. I’m no chemist. Who knows what all of those ingredients are on the labels? Glucomannan this, acesulfame potassium that. What the heck is any of that and why do I want it in my body? And then there’s the cost. Holy sticker shock! Do you know how much this shit costs? This is one that came recommended by my trainer, Orgain Organic Protein Plant-Based Powder, and will cost you $26.40 for just over 2 pounds of powder (around 20 servings). Being the cheapskate that I am, I shelved the idea and went back to my milk.

But on a shopping trip to Costco, high on $1 frozen yogurt and the promise of a good deal, they got me. They were sampling the Orgain powder and though I didn’t like the taste of it (too Splenda-y), I saw the Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein and went for it. At $59.99 for 90 servings, it’s still an investment in something I’m not convinced that I need, but I decided to try it.

I chose this brand because of its shorter list of ingredients, and because it doesn’t have an obvious artificial sweetener aftertaste to it, though doing some after-the-fact research has made me realize that there is apparently a higher level of Optimum Nutrition “Gold Standard” product that completely removes artificial flavors and sweeteners. If I continue down this road I might need to head there next.

The whole foods hippie in me really wants to hate this. It would be like the time I tried to prove to Mike that I had an open mind about moving to Bainbridge Island by agreeing to a one-day house-hunt out here. I figured we’d drag ourselves and our (at the time) very small children on a day-long odyssey from our perfectly located Seattle home, find it to be way too much trouble, and leave it at that. That obviously worked well.

So I’ve spent the last few weeks whirring up recovery drinks of milk, ice, fruit, and protein powder (thank god for the Vitamix) as soon as I return from a run or the gym. And, I have to say, I do feel pretty good. These last few weeks have been building weeks and normally I’d be a bit more run down. I tend to have trouble sleeping in a phase like this, and it hasn’t been that bad lately. Is this a placebo effect? Part of me really wants that to be the case. I’d love to go back to my old ways, or at least stick with the old fashioned glass of milk. What do you think? Is protein powder worth the cost and consumption of unfamiliar substances?

Protein and the refueling window

There’s something satisfying about shocking someone. Even when it’s shocking in a bad way, deep down someone like predictable, reliable me takes a certain amount of glee in saying something surprising.

I think I shocked my trainer this morning. Not in a good way.

It started innocuously enough. I’m thinking about trading in my usual post-workout recovery beverage – coffee – with something a little more, uh, nutritious. Of the areas of my training that could use improvement (and there are many, I’m sure), this one seems like the one with the most potential for growth. Because, from a performance standpoint, I pay exactly zero attention to it.

How do I refuel after a workout? Coffee… definitely. Food… eventually, though not always in that 30-90 minute window. And if I’ve scheduled something right after a run, you’d better believe a good shower and makeup are going to take precedence over food.

I’ve always assumed that I’ve got the nutrition piece down. I cook whole foods, choose organic produce and grass-fed meats, and eschew processed food. I eat lots of fruits and vegetables, try to get daily servings of dairy, lean meats, whole grains… what else is there?

Apparently, a lot. Bethanee started rattling off terms like branched-chain amino acids and calculations like this one to determine how much protein you need in a day:

Grams of protein = 1.2g/kg of body weight

In other words, if you weigh 110 pounds, your daily protein intake if you are an endurance athlete should be around 70 grams.

Whaa? How is that possible? To my novice ears, that sounds like a shit ton. I believe my current coffee recovery drink has exactly none.

A quick perusal through the Google and my refrigerator concurs. A 1 cup serving of skim milk has 9 grams of protein. A 4 oz. chicken breast has 27 grams. 1/2 cup of cottage cheese has 13 grams. How can I maintain my cracker consumption when there’s all that protein to consume?

No protein in sight

As I return to running after a break and injury I realize that I really need to work on the nutrition side of things too. Sometimes I get hung up on the *noise* surrounding nutrition that I hear, well, everywhere. You can’t swing a dead cat this time of year without seeing something about how you should and shouldn’t eat: Don’t eat at night, no snacking between meals, CARBS ARE POISON! – and I forget that I’m eating for a different cause. Those muscles aren’t growing themselves (especially at my age), and apparently I’m not doing a whole lot to help them. It’s time to start.

The great CrossFit experiment of 2015

How do you talk about a running injury without sounding like an annoying narcissistic whiner? It’s impossible, just ask Mike. So I will sum up the current state of things by saying that the foot is still unhappy, I’m missing so much training that it seems impossible to salvage any semblance of fitness for Club Nationals (less than two weeks, but who’s counting?), and the stages of injury grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) are more like a soupy fog than orderly feelings that you can check off a list.

But that’s just depressing.

Let’s talk about CrossFit. Because that always goes hand-in-hand with running.

Outcome

This is where I’ve been spending my early mornings on Tuesdays and Thursdays since July. It started as a matter of necessity when my regular trainer went out of town for a few weeks. I knew I couldn’t keep up the strength training on my own (because I WILL.NOT.DO.IT.), and a trainer at Bainbridge CrossFit Outcome (Bethanee Randles… holla!) had some time to get me through those weeks. I really only intended it to be a short-lived stint, but a session or two convinced me to make the switch.

I’ve always had that runner’s skepticism about building muscles. When I look around a starting line, it’s always the tall, lanky people who intimidate me. They *look* like they must run a lot, and therefore must be fast. How can you run fast if you’re laden down with bulky muscles?

Take that misguided perception and add it to the rep for bulk that CrossFit seems to have, and you’ve got a place that definitely did not seem to be up my alley.

But having little other choice, I tried it. The first couple sessions were pathetic. I couldn’t do a real push-up, my burpees were abysmal, and I wasn’t sure that I could make it through the workout. And I HAD been working on strength. Clearly, there was a hole there that needed to be filled.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not delusional enough about my abilities to claim that what I do is ACTUALLY CrossFit. It’s more like CrossFit lite, but it’s probably more than your typical runner’s circuit.

But I am here to attest that it has helped this year. I think I’m moving better, and was able to navigate the muddy mess of the PNTF Champs course more easily than in the past. And now it’s my final fall-back position for this last race of the year. The speed and endurance have been on a steady decline since early November but I’ve been able to keep up the gym work. Hopefully the strength piece will compensate for the things that are lacking. It’s the only thing that’s keeping me from oozing into a sloppy puddle of doubt.

So ladies, lift those weights. Strength = confidence.