Training Lite- How I’m getting faster and the running is easy

Posted on October 15, 2013


I wouldn’t say that I am any kind of an expert on training regimens, although I do have almost 30 years of experience as a runner, and I have spent countless chunks of my life dedicated to studying how best to fuel and treat my body for its best performance.  Nevertheless, I’m not officially certified to give any official advice.  Of course, how often do officials have the right advice anyways?  It’s the live-ers and doers out there who I trust.

My best advice has always come from high school cross country memories (charge the hills, coast the flats, thanks Coach McLean.) Facebook conversations with old teammates, (just how much snacking and hydrating do I really need for a marathon?) And mostly, my Dad.  He ran a ton of marathons, and back then, (WAAAAAY BACK then…just kidding, Dad!) training wasn’t really a thing.  Running wasn’t really much of a thing, it’s just something Marines did.  So he may not know anything about the science and research of running, but as far as end user application? He’s the only expert I need.  He taught me such things as “don’t zig zag, Britt! You’ll add a ton of distance and wear yourself out.” This piece of advice he shouted to me at the starting line of my first half marathon as we separated ways in the pack.  Boy, does he know his daughter.  Impatient, competitive, and never listening.  But I did listen, and I think of it every race.  I smile when I see other foolish runners striving to get a leg up the old zig zag way. Amateurs.  (I NEVER did that before my Dad corrected my ways, lol.)

He is full of training gems I will be happy to pass along, but today I want to tell you how I have accidentally created my best training plan ever.  This will be my second full marathon. For my first marathon training, I did everything by the book.  I ran each mile of my program, all the speed work and sprints, and I took it very seriously.  Learning the difference between 13 miles and 26 miles the first go round is daunting. It is a DIFFERENT sport.  I stretched the limits of my schedule and my family’s needs.  I made it through and I got a respectable time for my efforts.

Fast forward to training for Marathon #2. My school schedule and work schedule have both picked up immensely.  My responsibilities have increased, and I have more responsibilities in the home as well, with a new kindergartner and one still at home.  My course this semester is ridiculously time consuming and now I’m in the PTA.  I just finished a stint of 7 days without breathing as I went from one obligation to the next with no breaks and staying up past 3am each night to do schoolwork and set up for the day ahead. The house? gross. Laundry? Please don’t ask. I didn’t see much of my husband and chiseled out a moment to entertain overnight guests. I attended an all day Open House at the College and left early to get to work on time.  That’s my life. Leave one event early to get to the next on time.  I squeaked in my Wednesday night run after being in class from noon until five.  Went pretty fast too. My number one piece of advice for child free runners? RUN every chance you get!  You will dream of the days when you hemmed and hawed over whether or not you should run. Can you run right now? Good enough, GO!!!!

I can imagine that I am not the only person on Earth with only 24 hours in their day and with multiple commitments.  I like it that way, it keeps me busy and focused.  But you do have to prioritize.  So early in training, it was clear that I was not going to be able to do all of this running.  I take an hour long kettle bell class at my gym with day care every Tuesday.  That I can do, I am with the little one alone after we all ride bikes (every morning) to drop of the elder kindergartner at school. I used to try to fit in a run after that, but I was pushing my daycare 2 hr limit and to be honest, I was wiped.  I had homework to do and That kettle class is no joke. It’s an hour of weighted squats, lunges, and burpees. So out went the Tuesday treadmill run. After all day in school on Wednesdays, I head straight downtown every week to run with the Bull City Runners.  It is a hilly 6.5 miles around Duke campus, and that group is FAST.  So fast, that after running with them this past year, I have really seen my times improve.  I may not see the family on Wednesday, but this run is my salvation.  Then, I try to squeeze in one more run each week, my distance run.  It has sometimes been a challenge, there may even be daycare involved, but I do get’r done.

So that sums up my weekly plan.  1 hr kettlebell class.  1 6.5 mile run. 1 distance run. The end.  That is officially my training plan.  And I have no more to give, that is already pushing the boundaries of my schedule. Believe me, if I have a block of spare time, I fill it with running.  (See advice to non parents in bold above).  But guess what??? I have NEVER been faster in my life! I actually have the best pace for each distance that I have ever had, even in my old cross country days!

I think it’s a triple effect from the muscles strengthened with the kettlebells (great instructor) and keeping up with the Bull City Folks, the ‘lite’ but consistent training, and the Vegan plant based diet.  (Read Brendan Brazier’s book, Thrive, for more on how that is the best diet to fuel endurance sports.  That’s another blog post for another day.)

I realized early on that feeling guilty about lighter training would do me no good, and that since I lead a very non-sedentary lifestyle, I am always on the go and that keeps me sharp.  I rationalized that the stress level of trying to fit it all in (impossible) would counteract any benefit from more running. And it turns out, that I was right. I feel great when I run.  After last week’s incredulous schedule acrobatics, I was unable to run from Wed night until lastnight, a Monday. My distance was a step down at 14 miles, from the previous week’s 18.  I should have done it on Friday or Saturday.  I found my first available opportunity on Monday after class. My husband got home from work, and for once,  I wasn’t heading straight to work with a passing high five at the door.  I took off, and ran with pure joy in my lungs at an amazing pace under 8 1/2 minutes per mile. (Speed is relative, this pace is uniquely amazing for me and my running history, we all have our own amazing).  I felt so great, that I added a lap around the pond bringing it to 15 1/2.  Honestly I had thought I was only going to go for 12.

Long story shortened, I think you have to find your own personal training groove, don’t stress yourself out, and make sure you are still enjoying yourself.  Don’t sweat the small stuff. But if you can, go sweat. Sweat a lot.

Happy Running Out There!