Lately a strange thing has been happening- I’ve been running faster than ever before. This all started without me really trying. I mentioned it in my post about how I am running 3 marathons in 3 months, and since then I have been trying to think about what has changed for me over the last few months that may be causing this. I have a few ideas…
- I stopped focusing so much on speed. After 3 years of training for a specific time goal and finally meeting it, I was burnt out on speed. I was in between training plans and ran when I felt like it. I started focusing on running by effort levels instead of pace and on ENJOYING my runs and how they made me feel. I didn’t care about speed or look at my watch as much, and I was shocked when it beeped mile after mile and I saw what my mile splits were. What used to be a difficult pace for me felt almost effortless!
- I started believing I could run faster. Running fast has NEVER been easy for me. I have always struggled with maintaining good speed and never thought I would be a relatively “fast runner”. But once I saw what was happening on my runs I started to change my mind. Why can’t I run fast? Why can’t I become a ‘fast runner’? And I started to believe that I could. When my new training plan began I started to push myself on some of my runs just to see what type of pace I could maintain and I was shocked at the results. I was consistently able to run faster than my goal marathon pace used to be, even on runs of 14 – 18 miles. I realized that it was my mind that was holding me back, not my body, and that I was capable of more than I thought I was.
- I started running higher mileage. Since I’m training for a 50K my weekly mileage is higher than it’s ever been before. I’m running 5 times a week with two long runs on the weekend. My weekly mileage has been in the 30s, now 40s, and will enter into the 50s in a couple weeks. Surprisingly, my body has responded very well to this high mileage and has adapted well to running on tired legs. In fact, some of my fastest runs are my back to back long runs!
- I stopped counting calories. As a vegetarian athlete, I was always very careful that I was eating enough calories to fuel my workouts. I was never crazy about counting calories, but I did like to make sure I wasn’t under or overeating so I used rough estimates to figure out what my net calorie intake/outtake was each day. If I was short I would be sure to eat a snack at the end of the day. I decided sometime in October to stop keeping track of calories. I still write down what I eat most days, but I don’t count the calories. I listen to my body for cues to know when to eat and when to stop eating, rather than focusing on a number. This has helped me so much because I never feel too hungry or too full. I think sometimes I was eating too much because I thought I “had to” to make up for what I burned that day, and it made me sluggish on my runs the next day. Now I just eat when I’m hungry and try to keep my portions in check.
- I am strength-training consistently for the first time in my life. I have always struggled with getting into a strength-training routine. I would do it for a couple weeks then push it to the back burner as my running got more intense. All that changed in July when I discovered Body Pump and fell in love. Since then I’ve gone 2-3 times a week most weeks, and I have seen awesome results. I am more toned, have more upper body strength, and my core and back are stronger which gives me better form and posture when I run. The squats and lunges have also been great for strengthening muscles in my legs that weren’t necessarily being used while running. I love how Body Pump is a group class that uses fun music to work out your entire body in only an hour. I also love how there are new releases every 3 months to keep it interesting!
- I was put on a higher dose of medicine for my hypothyroidism. I have written about my thyroid issues before and how I take medication daily to help my thyroid work properly. I get blood work done every 6 months to monitor my thyroid hormone levels and ensure that they are not too high or too low. In early October I got my results back and for the first time in years my levels were off. My doctor told me that my thyroid was once again under-active and my current dosage of medication wasn’t enough anymore. This made perfect sense when I started thinking about other symptoms I was having but was attributing to life as a teacher, grad student, and bride-to-be: constant exhaustion, zero motivation to do anything, weak and numb fingers (uncontrolled hypothyroidism causes joint swelling and it was happening in my wrists), difficulty maintaining my weight despite being as active as before, and my digestion wasn’t working as well. It all clicked! My doctor increased my dosage and I could feel a difference after only a week. I had TONS more energy during the day, the numbness disappeared, and everything went back to normal. This is also when I started feeling stronger on my runs. One of the symptoms of hypothyroidism is feeling weak and drained of energy, and I felt that way on many of my runs in the past which I assumed was a normal part of distance running. However, recently I haven’t feel that way at all on my long runs. I have a steady stream of energy and haven’t hit any walls yet. My body just seems to be functioning better as a whole.
I have no idea if these factors have anything to do with how I am running faster now. They are just the things that have changed for me over the last few months and they were all I could think of to explain it. This newfound speed really excites me and I can’t wait to push myself more and see what I can do in my a road marathon.