I ran my first half-marathon over the weekend. I have yet to decide if it will be my last.
Several things I discovered :
a) 21kms is a long way. Yesiree.
b) In retrospect, training is a good idea – I’ll remember that for next time.
c) I was validated to discover a little bit of herbal therapy and nutritional fiddling made a big difference … particularly in light of (b).
In lieu of adequate distance-running training, I focussed on two things:
1 – Getting the protein-carb-fat balance right – that way my body would be as prepared as possible for the energy I’d need.
2 – Minimising pain in my joints and lactic acid buildup in my legs, both during and after the run.
Diet-wise, protein was tantamount – particularly as I’m a vegetarian (a stereotypically low protein diet) who tends to burn up energy quicker than I can consume it. High-intensity and endurance training dramatically increases the body’s requirements for protein – our muscles just love it. I occasionally use protein powders in smoothies or muesli, particularly if I do a big ride or a heavy yoga practice – so leading up the run, I upped my supplementary protein, as well as getting at least 15 – 20g protein in each meal.
Complex carbohydrates ordinarily form the base of my meals – brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat and rye bread are my current staples. These provide a good source of energy that takes time for the body to metabolise. Whereas simple carbs are a quick-burn source of energy, particularly important during or immediately after intensive exercise – and although I’m not usually a mad fan of lollies, a handful of jubes after a big run never tasted so good! Alternatively, a sweetened drink, fresh juice or serve of high-sugar fruit (e.g. figs, dates, grapes) can be just as effective.
Good quality fat is another important consideration, both for energy and to reduce inflammation. I focussed on including plenty of cold-pressed oils (e.g. olive, flaxseed), nuts and seeds, natural yoghurt, avocados and feta into my meals. Yum.
Herbally, I dosed myself up on adrenal tonics – herbs to support energy production and endurance. I also increased my intake of B vitamins, magnesium and vitamin C – crucial for circulation, energy production and for reducing muscle cramping (especially after a big event).
Following the actual event, I limped home and drew a long bath. Into it I scooped heaps of Epsom salts – absolutely stellar for tired muscles and sore limbs – along with a generous splash of Sage oil – a wonderful tonic to improve circulation and treat fatigue. It was bliss!
I had expected some pretty major stiffness and pain in my legs after the weekend’s effort – however, by Monday afternoon I felt back to normal and Tuesday I was riding up and down the hills of my neighbourhood like any other day.
So there you go: some handy advice should you ever find yourself at the eleventh hour, participating in an event otherwise outside your comfort zone and fitness level.
One more thing… despite the discussion above, it’s probably a good idea to squeeze in a bit more training than I did.
Oh, and don’t forget to breathe.