I’ve received a couple of emails from two visitors of this blog over the past few weeks, and have decided finally that I should take some time to answer them before I get busy in a few minutes!! I’ve left out the name of the senders for privacy reasons, and have posted my replies here because I think they are questions many people would pose.
1. Would like to seek your advice on my meal plans. I usually take my lunch between 12-1pm, after which I experience hunger pangs from 4pm onwards, which is not doing any favour to my jogging schedule which is usually around 7-ish after work (and I only take dinner after the jog). Sometimes to fight the hunger, I take granola bars, but still I feel my energy level dip once I hit the tracks. Do you have any recommendations for short tea breaks that I can bring along to the office which can maintain me through the jog?
Good question and one that I might not be able to answer from experience, since I don’t usually exercise after work. Most of my training is done in the morning, before or after breakfast, so I don’t usually face this hunger problem. But let me offer my views anyway.
First I think the body is very adaptable and gets into a habit after just a few days of routine. For example I used to find that running early in the morning (starting anywhere between 4-6am) would leave me feeling weak during the run. Many times I could not complete the distance I’d set out to do because my legs just couldn’t move. But slowly, as I got used to the early morning routine, my body adapted to exercising at that time and in a semi-fuelled condition. Of course I also learned a bigger, healthy dinner the night before does help improve my condition for the morning run.
So I think the main thing is just to teach your body to get used to the routine of eating lunch at about 1pm, snacking at 4pm (try to eat more high-fibre foods during this time to keep you feeling fuller for longer), exercising at 7ish and then eating your dinner after. Or try having an earlier breakfast, earlier lunch and an early dinner before your training, followed by a high-carb snack after training. Going to bed on a full tummy isn’t a good feeling anyway. Of course you’ll wake up hungry in the morning, but that’s what an earlier, perhaps bigger, breakfast will solve.
If you’re still hungry just before your run, try consuming calories through drink instead of food. A bottle of H-TWO-O Isotonic Drink, for example, has 140 calories, just as many as two slices of white bread. The thing about drinking is it goes down much easier and definitely doesn’t sit in your stomach like a ball of dough. And during training, continue to drink isotonic drinks to keep your energy levels high.
Though ultimately, I think the best way is to teach your body to operate on your desired routine. After a couple of weeks I’m sure it will adapt.
2. I saw you running the 70.3 earlier this year when I was watching a friend of mine and I was wondering what sustains you through the hard times of training and racing? How do you force yourself to keep going?
First I have to say I think the hard times in training shouldn’t come too often. If they do then maybe you’re going too hard for too long. A friend of mine who was a former NZ pro triathlete once told me when it’s time to go fast, go really hard, and when it’s time to go slow, take it easy. Full-on efforts are usually short and sharp, and the bulk of your training should be at an aerobic pace or easier.
So when I do face hard times in training, it’s usually during a long run in the midst of a heavy work week. Or on days when I’m really tired from work and I can’t seem to get my body going.
I think of the race I’m training for and how sweet the gratification — albeit delayed — would feel. I think of all the hours I’ve already put in, and to give up now would negate all that effort. I think of how I would feel in the race, after swimming and biking and in the midst of suffering on the run, and realise that’s probably how I’m feeling now in training. And I tell myself if I can push through this barrier, I know during the race I will be able to do it again, because it’s all about training your mind. If I gave up in the middle of a training session, I know I’d likely give up in the middle of a race.
I wonder about how quick I can ever be, and if I don’t put in the hard miles I will never know. So I go out there, day after day, mile after mile, pushing myself to find out where my limit is.
Of course, on days that I feel really crap, and from experience I know it’s not just my mind playing tricks on me, I rest. Sometimes, feeling like a sack of potatoes is just your body’s way of telling you it needs a break. So take a breather, have some good food, put your legs up and recover. Rest is a training session too, you know.