DO’S AND DON’TS OF HALF MARATHON TRAINING

As my unexpected and unruly half marathon training comes to a close, I’ve had time to reflect on my personal do’s and don’ts

As always, take these with a grain of salt

Do

Rest

Hydrate

Cross train

Make a banging playlist

Sing out loud when the mood strikes

Verbalize your miles

Literally out loud

For others to hear

Run when it’s cool out

Run when it’s raining

Run in the evenings

Run when it is 76 degrees or less

Run on a holiday

Run on Sundays

Mondays

Tuesdays

Wednesdays

Thursdays

Fridays

Or Saturdays

Be aware of your surroundings

Count the number of bunnies and cats you see

Wave to small children

Wave to other runners

Run for yourself

Run with intention of others

Think of those who aren’t capable

Reflect on those lost

Think about Ahmaud Arbery

And run in his honor

Don’t

Compare your

Speed

Distances

Clothes

Frequency

Duration

Self to others

Just, run

Until tomorrow, Meryn


Additional relevant blog posts:
HOW I LOST 15 POUNDS AND 5 INCHES DURING COVID-19 QUARANTINE linked here
WHY I RUN linked here
WHY I RUN: FEBRUARY 2021 UPDATE linked here
HOW I ACCIDENTALLY TRAINED FOR A HALF MARATHON DURING A PANDEMIC linked here

HOW I ACCIDENTALLY TRAINED FOR A HALF MARATHON DURING A PANDEMIC

I don’t know why I’ve been dragging my feet on writing and posting this blog. It’s been 5 months since I ran my first half marathon. Let’s get into it.


Let me preface this by saying: I had literally no idea when I set off on a run on April 24, 2020, that I’d be running a half marathon 6 months later.

What started as just exercise and healthy movement quickly become therapy as our world began to change as the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic set in.

So here’s what happened.

In the month of May, I ran six times: 3 miles, 3 miles, 2 miles, 4.26 miles, 1 mile, and 1.25 miles. At the time, not really concerned about speed or progressing in distance, just hitting the pavement, moving my body. [And taking ridiculous, post-workout mirror selfies, see below. Embarrassing, but I’m glad I have them to look back on. Because what I see now is progress, joy, and happiness]

Then in June, pretty much the same with 6 runs: 2.33 miles, 3 miles 2.14 miles, 3 miles, 1.14 miles, 1.5 miles, and 1 mile. Nothing crazy, not even anything over 4 miles yet. At this point, running is an excuse to get out of the house and to enjoy some fresh air.

Now July, the dead of summer, at 6 more runs: 2 miles, 3.1 miles, 2 miles, 1.1 miles, 1 mile, 1.5 miles, and 1.5 miles. Shorter distances overall, but who can blame me? It’s freaking hot in July. At this time, I was spending more time doing full body workouts inside with just a yoga mat, couple of kettle bells, and a medicine ball.

In the month of August, 11 runs, now we are getting somewhere: 1.65 miles, 0.5 miles, 2.05 miles, 1.05 miles, 3.2 miles, 1.05 miles, 1.10 miles, 1 mile, 1 mile, 2 miles, 1.75 miles, 1.25 miles, 4 miles, 3.41 miles, and 3.81 miles. See that 4 miler in there? That’s the run were I started to wonder, if I can run 4 miles, maybe I can run 5?

On to September, summer heat is starting to fade into fall, 12 runs: 1 mile, 1 mile, 4.4 miles, 5 miles, 1 mile, 1 mile, 3.1 mile, 6 miles, 7 miles, 1 mile, 3.5 miles, 4 miles, and 3 miles. Once I hit the 5 mile mark I thought hey, that wasn’t so bad. What’s 1 more mile? So then I hit 6 miles, and then I hit 7 miles. It was the 7 mile mark I knew a half marathon was on the horizon.

And finally October, fall has definitely arrived with crisp, cool afternoon and evening weather, perfect for building distance, 8 runs: 8 miles, 2.1 miles, 1 mile, 10 miles, 1 mile, 1 mile, 1 mile, 5.11 miles, 2 miles, and then of course, 13.1 miles!

And that’s how it happened. Honestly, my toxic, type A, perfectionist personality took over. I couldn’t help but just add one more mile. One more mile was progress. One more mile was advancement. One more mile was achievement.

Here’s the thing. I didn’t set out to run a half marathon. I set out to challenge myself, to become a better person, physically and mentally. For me, that was just tacking on one more mile. 4 miles became 5 miles, which became 6 miles, then 7 miles. 8 miles, 10 miles, then 13.1 miles.

And through this process, I learned:

Running is freedom

Running is therapy

Running is euphoria

Running is power

Running is clarity

October 2020 was the hardest month of my life. I lost 9 residents to COVID-19 in less than 2 weeks. The only thing keeping my head above water was running. Running became my escape. Running still is my escape.

Until tomrrow, Meryn


Additional relevant blog posts:
HOW I LOST 15 POUNDS AND 5 INCHES DURING COVID-19 QUARANTINE linked here
WHY I RUN linked here
WHY I RUN: FEBRUARY 2021 UPDATE linked here

WHY I RUN: FEBRUARY 2021 UPDATE

It’s February 24th and over 40 degrees in Ohio with beautiful, blue skies overhead, melting snow piles, and lots of puddles. Let’s run:


While running the same thought kept coming to me:

I feel alive for the first time

In a long time

That’s what running does for me

It grounds me

Connects me to the present moment

My surroundings

My breathing

My heart rate

What a release

What a feeling

What a high

Euphoria

Until next time, Meryn


WHY I RUN

I’m inundated with these thoughts after I’ve ran, they won’t let me be. So here it is, to live forever on the internet, out of my brain.


Why I Run:

Because it’s therapeutic

Because it’s uninterrupted time with myself

Because I know it is good for me

Physically

Emotionally

Because it’s an escape

Because it’s freeing

Because it unclouds my mind

Because it makes me feel powerful

Because it makes me feel strong

Because I feel in control

Because of the stress

Because of the worry

Because I am determined

Because I am dedicated

Because I achieve the goals I set

Because I want to be healthy

Now

10 years from now

60 years from now

Because I know I won’t be able to forever

Because I want to walk without help as I age

Because I’m 27 and healthy

Because I can

Until tomorrow, Meryn


HOW I LOST 15 POUNDS AND 5 INCHES DURING COVID-19 QUARANTINE

How I managed to lose nearly 15 pounds during a global pandemic, and keep it off, can be summed up into 3 things: diet, exercise, and accountability (but also the triple D: discipline, dedication, and determination).

Disclaimer: I define diet as “the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats.” I don’t current claim to be ‘on a diet’ or ‘dieting’ as I view whole30 as a purposeful lifestyle and form of eating, rather than a restrictive eating program as the term diet might imply. I did not count a single calorie nor intentionally restrict my intake of calories in quarantine as a means of maintaining or losing weight.

Diet
When Melissa Urban announced they were launching a community whole30 – #whole30athome, to begin on April 13, 2020, I knew it was time. The announcement came around week 2 or 3 of the COVID-19 outbreak and just after Governor DeWine put into effect our stay at home orders in Ohio. I had already committed to working out at home 4-5 days a week following the closing of my local gym, but I knew the next step to making lasting change was to re-evaluate my diet and eating habits. Enter: a new round of whole30.

Let me say first that I have quite the history with whole30. You can read more about my first round in 2015 here, as well as all other blog posts I’ve shared about the topic of whole30, including a week by week recap of #whole30athome, here. During #whole30athome I managed to lose 9.4 lbs and a combined 3 inches. I ate over 95% of my meals at home, only twice did I ‘eat out’ which consisted of the whole30 compliant chicken bowl from Chipotle.

Of the seven rounds of whole30 I’ve done in 5 years, I’d say this was the easiest. Not only did having months of prior experience work to my advantage, but having extra time to meal plan and meal prep also aided in my success. And let’s not forget the fact that most restaurants were either closed at this time or only offering take out with limited menus, thus reducing temptation to eat out. Honestly, it was a recipe for success from the start (ha, food pun).

Exercise
Was I jazzed to be limited to working out at home after the closure of my local gym in March? No, but I was also determined to make the most of it. I knew it would be easy to just stop working out all together, I mean who could blame a person? We are living through a global pandemic after all. But I made a commitment to myself to continue to exercise 4-5 times per week with the goal of 60 minutes of activity. It took a week or 2 but I found a routine and rhythm that worked and that I have stuck with months later. My at home fitness routine is combination of strength training, tabata/HIIT workouts, and cardio.

I was seeing a lot of HIIT and tabata type workouts being shared on Instagram. What I didn’t particularity like about them was that they were usually only 15 to 30 minutes long and the tabatas were typically 30 sec on/15 sec off. Knowing that I wanted to commit to 60 minutes of exercise/activity, I downloaded a tabata timer app, messed around with the intervals and time limits, and settled on 60 secs on/30 seconds off for 7 rounds which equates to a 10 minute round. From there, I began building workouts by choosing 4 to 5 exercises to be completed tabata-style with 10 minutes reserved at the end either for a cool down walk outside or stretching/yoga. I quickly found that this was the perfect blend of repetitiveness and variety for me. I started building my at home workouts like this near the end of March and have continued this method into June.

I have also been enjoying what I call 100s which are typically shorter, 15 to 30 minute workouts. Similar to the tabatas, I pick 3 to 4 full body exercises, like squats, push ups, and sit ups most often, and do 10 reps of each move round after round until completing 100 reps, doing my best to limit rest time. I like these shorter workouts for either after a short run outside or after a long neighborhood walk.

The last component of my at home exercise routine is cardio, specifically running outside. I aim for 2 runs a week, generally one run to focus on a quick 1 mile, with the goal to reduce my 1 mile time, and the other to be a slower paced run, 2 miles or longer. I’m still building tolerance and find that for longer runs I need to alternate between periods of running and walking – typically I’ll run the first 1 to 1.25 miles, walk for 0.25 miles, run 0.5 miles, then walk again for 0.25 miles, run 0.5 miles, and repeat, so on and so forth.

Here’s a list of fitness Instagram accounts I look to for inspiration for exercises to include in my HIIT and tabata workouts:
– Maddie of @madfit.ig, also on youtube
– Rachael DeVaux of @rachealsgoodeats
– Melissa Urban of @melissau
– Gabrielle Rodriguez of @gabsfit15
– Iulia Danilova of @fit.with.iulia
– Kayla Itsines of @kayla_itsines and @sweat
– Meg Morat of @megmo_fit

And here’s a list of the basic equipment I have for my at home workouts:
– yoga mat
– 8 lb medicine ball
– 15 lb kettlebell
– 25 lb kettlebell linked here
– resistance bands linked here
– tabata timer app

Accountability
Throughout this weight loss journey and especially during quarantine, I set up various systems and habits to keep me accountable to my goals which has helped my motivation and focus on my overall goals.

1 | A habit I put in place at the start of the year was a bi-monthly, excel spreadsheet check-in where I record my weight, measurements, cardiovascular health (via fitbit data), and journal about my overall emotional response and feelings to the 15 day reporting period. This has helped me track my progress, both numerically and emotionally, and holds me accountable to my actions.

2 | In a similar way, I keep a health and fitness Happy Planner where I record my daily workouts, weight, thoughts, emotions, etc. I love flipping through the planner and reflecting on the progress I have made, and it is a nice way to get workout inspiration from older at home workouts I’ve done.

3 | Publicly documenting my #whole30athome journey through Instagram and this blog was another huge form of accountability. The benefits were two-fold – it kept me focused on delivering whole30 content but also helped build diversity in my blog posts.

4 | Earlier this year, I started tracking my workouts more publicly (i.e. not just in my Happy Planner) in our apartment by keeping a weekly tracker on our command station whiteboard. At the start of the #whole30athome in April, I adapted the dashboard to track my 1 mile time, days of whole30, weight, and weekly workouts. I sounds crazy to admit but this simple, weekly overview dashboard is the biggest driving force for my success, without a doubt. There is something about passing this section of the whiteboard everyday that holds me to my values and reminds me of my overall goals. Something inside me can’t stand the thought of not being able to check off all 5 workout boxes (classic Gretchen Rubin obliger, I know).

And finally, because I am technically an exercise scientist (with a bachelor’s degree to prove it), please enjoy a summary of the data I’ve obtained:

April 1, 2020June 1, 2020CHANGE
Chest42 in 41 in1 in
Waist38 in36 in2 in
Hips45.5 in43.5 in2 in
Thigh27 in25.75 in1.25 in
6.25 in
Weight 184.8 lbs170.2 lbs14.6 lbs
WeightJanuary 1, 2020
188.2 lbs
June 6, 2020
170.0 lbs
OVERALL
18.2 lbs

Post-workout glamour shots below:

Until tomorrow, Meryn