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
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
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
Self to others
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
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
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.
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: