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M.I.S.S. Healthy Bites: Crossing the Finish Line

A resolution accomplished!

A resolution accomplished!

A new year calls for new resolutions, but before you start listing off the same resolutions as every year, take a moment to reflect on your goals from last year.  Did you accomplish what you wanted?

Most resolutions transform into a faint memory after the first few weeks of the new year, so when writing out your goal, make sure it comes with a plan that you can stick to.

One of my resolutions last year went something like, “In 2010, I will run again,”  with running a half marathon as my ultimate goal.  I’m proud to say that I’ve crossed the finish line, but I’m not crossing that off of my list for this year’s resolutions.  I’m ready to do it again.

When it comes to resolutions, you have to frame it properly.  I could have easily said, “I will run every week,” but that probably would have set me up for failure during my off-times.  But because my resolution defined a specific, attainable goal that required a built-in plan of running during training, I was able to stick to it, and keep myself on the healthy tip.

I’m kicking off the new year by training for a half marathon in February, and like Fruition‘s Samantha Jo Alonso, whose “Mission I’m-POSSIBLE” led her to completing 5 full marathons in 2010, I’m feeling possible.  One half marathon won’t be enough.  I’ve already filled up my calendar with run dates and registration deadlines so a year full of finish lines lie ahead of me.

Sure, I have some of my year planned out, but now I need to focus in on exactly what it takes to cross all of those finish lines.  No, not those weeks of training, but more like those moments before, during, and after a run that really make all that training count.  Running in a marathon is like any performance-type event- you work so hard for something and then it’s over in a flash, or in my case, 2.5 hours.

If you have a long-distance run on your bucket list of 2011, keep in mind that aside from the training weeks before the race, you’ll also have much to focus on to make it really happen.

The Day Before

  • Don’t run!  As much as I wanted to get a run in the day before the race, folks advised me not to run and just have a day of rest.  I had feelings of anxiety all day, wondering if I would even have the energy or the endurance to run 13.1 miles, especially since my max was at 6 miles.  I wasn’t even running every single day.  In fact, the next day after all of my runs, my legs needed a break!  Because I didn’t run the day before, my body felt fresh and ready to take on the course.  However, don’t leave your body in the cold.  Give yourself a good stretch, or hit the hot tub or steam room to loosen up your muscles.
  • Check the weather.  It was pouring rain the day of my race for the US Half Marathon in San Francisco.  In all the training weeks before, it never rained, so I didn’t know what to expect.  I saw some runners had fancy rain gear, while more crafty people made ponchos out of trash bags.  For me, all I had was a Nike running hat and my Under Armour top.  It was weatherproof, but not in that weather!  I was soaking wet!  Whether it’s rain or raging temperatures, make sure you have the proper attire to make your run most comfortable in whatever the weather brings.
  • Get your zzzz’s.  I’m a late bird, but because races generally start in the wee hours of the morning, I needed to sleep earlier than normal to ensure that I’d not only have enough energy to endure 13.1 miles, but also so I’d wake up in time!  Getting enough sleep also means no partying- save the celebrations for the finish line.
  • Pump up the jams.  Some races don’t allow participants to use music devices, but thankfully, the US Half allows it.  I filled my iPod with songs that would keep me pumped during the run.  Keep in mind the distance of your run when you create your playlist, because you’ll want enough music to drive you to the finish line.
  • Don’t kick the carbs to the curb.  You might be watching your diet, but for a long run, you’ll need plenty of carbohydrates to burn.  Treat yourself to hearty dinner the night before.  Get your carbohydrates from healthy foods like whole grains and fruits and vegetables.  Try a pasta dinner with whole wheat noodles.

The Hours Before

  • Power up with breakfast.  Yes, you had a dinner high in carbs, but you’ll also need to power up with the most important meal of the day.  Trina, M.I.S.S.’s own graphics intern who completed a FULL marathon last summer, suggested charging up with more carbs, like a bagel and peanut butter.  But whatever you do, make sure to eat at least 2 hours before the start of the run so you’ll have time to digest.  My start time was at 7 A.M. which meant that I had to eat at 5 A.M.!  Yes, that’s super early, but I did not want to risk cramping up during the run.
  • Stretch it out.  Your whole body will be pushed to the limit, so spend a good amount of time stretching.  Of course, you would want to focus on leg stretches, but you’d be amazed at how many muscle groups you use while running!  I particularly like active stretches, where you stretch while moving (ie. instead of calf raises, walk on your tippy-toes).  This will also warm up your body so you’ll be ready to go when they say so!
On your mark, get set, GO!

On your mark, get set, GO!

The Time During

  • Keep hydrated.  I’m not the biggest fan of sports drinks, because water is all I need to get by.  I carried a small bottle of water in my pouch and drank a little bit after every few miles.  Some races even have water stations every two miles.
  • Add some energy.  Running is a terrific way to burn calories, but for a long-distance run, if you don’t have enough calories to burn, you will crash.  I carried an assortment of energizing snacks, like Gu Energy Gel, to consume after every 45 minutes.  These performance foods usually contain a high amount of caffeine for an extra boost.
  • Chant your mantra.  At some point, you may feel like giving up.  When I questioned if I could finish or not, I chanted my mantra in my head.  “I got this!” became my three words that pumped me up and made me believe in myself.
  • Enjoy the scenery.  You can do all the training you want, but once it’s race day, you’ll see everything in a new light.  It rained during my run, but once I caught a glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge in the morning mist, I couldn’t help but feel the happiness of being able to run in such a beautiful city.  On the other side of the bridge, I had to run down a muddy trail, but the views of the bay below kept my mind off of my wet and dirty shoes.  On top of that, friends and family decorated the course with smiles and cheer everyone along the way. But out of all of the views, the best one, at any race, is a view of the finish line!
Peep the scenery and enjoy the views!

Peep the scenery and enjoy the views!

The Time After

  • Recover.  After all that you endured, you’ll need to recover.  According to Trina, and many other fitness folks, chocolate milk is making its way out of the school cafeterias and into the hands of the healthy as an excellent recovery drink.  I also ate a banana to help soothe my sore muscles.
  • Stretch some more.  You may feel like you can’t take one more step, but make sure to stretch so you don’t stiffen up.
  • Celebrate!  You’ve worked hard for this accomplishment, so treat yourself right!  Sign yourself up for a spa treatment, ask a friend for a massage, go to a fancy dinner, or go on a shopping trip.  Whatever you do, hopefully it will serve as a reward for all the sweat you’ve put into your resolution.

M.I.S.S. Trina stretching with a smile after running 26.2 miles

M.I.S.S. Trina stretching with a smile after running 26.2 miles

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