By Emily Popoff, PT, DPT
One thing you should know about me, I don’t like running. I grew up playing soccer my entire childhood through high school and it taught me two things: First, I ran enough in my younger life to last me my adult one, and second, if there’s no ball and point scoring system involved, I don’t see the purpose. So naturally I’m now training to run a half marathon in February.
I should specify that I didn’t seek out a half marathon to run to fulfill some personal goal or for a specific cause. My motives were much simpler: my sister-in-law decided to run a half marathon to become more consistent in her work outs after my nephew was born and my brother wished her luck and refused to do it with her. After having a few other family members and friends politely decline, my name got thrown in to the mix and I wasn’t going to let her do it alone. So here I am, beginning another fitness journey just because I apparently couldn’t say no to my sister-in-law when everyone else had no problem with it.
Even though running isn’t really my thing, I knew if I was going to do this, I was going to do it right. That meant first finding a training schedule that worked for me. Whether you’re a new runner or participate in several races a year, having a set schedule for your training workouts is essential; it gives you the expectations for your daily work out and holds you accountable to a set goal. A quick Google search yields hundreds of different regiments, each proclaiming to be the “best.” When it comes down to it, the best training schedule for you is one that you will stick to. For me, as little as I like running, I enjoy sprint work outs and interval runs even less. To that end, I chose a schedule that is just progressive increases in mileage with two rest days a week. For any training or activity rest days are essential times for your body to recover, so make sure whatever you choose has a couple rest days built in each week.
After setting a training schedule I took a hard look at my diet. I had already started to streamline what I was eating and percentages of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins I was putting in my body. I knew that adding running to my schedule while maintaining a few days of strength training meant increasing my caloric intake and paying attention to make sure I had enough protein. I have been using Fitness Pal this past year to help me pay attention to my food and caloric intake, so it was natural to add in my work outs and plan my meals to ensure I was hitting my percentage goals and making sure my body had enough fuel to efficiently add running workouts in to my routine.
The third part of my prep was the hardest for me: my sleep schedule. I am, by nature, a night owl. I enjoy staying up in the later hours, mostly reading, but occasionally using the time to clean or get some work done. Early mornings have always been hard, and I don’t ever feel fully awake until at least 10 am and one cup of coffee. However, after looking at the training schedule I knew the best time to fit my runs in to my weekly schedule would be before work. So, a couple of weeks prior to starting my runs I started to incrementally get to bed a bit earlier each night. I don’t really have the will power to just put down what I’m reading and go to bed, so I started using the sleep feature on my phone. I set what time I wanted to get to bed in to the feature and my phone would alert me when it was time to hit the sack. I didn’t have to keep track of time or think about when I needed to be to sleep, I just had to listen for the alarm and know it was time to get to bed.
It’s been a week in to my training schedule so far and my preparation to start this program seems to be paying off. I’m not as reluctant as usual to wake up early and I’m feeling like I have enough fuel and rest to make it through my morning runs. It was a bit of a shock to the system to be back running, but not as bad as I had feared. Hopefully this schedule will keep me motivated and on track to make it through the half marathon, but I know that with a schedule this long fatigue will set in and motivation will wane. And you all will be along for the ride, good and bad, until race day the first weekend of February. Until then, I’ll be the runner in the road, looking overjoyed to be up running at 5 am in November. But don’t worry, the coffee will kick in before you come in for a treatment session with me later that morning.