The Body-Premium Unleaded:
In between timidly hopping around mud puddles in the low sections of the Flintridge Nature Trail this past Saturday (I'm not one to get my feet wet if I can avoid it!), I had a lot going through my head as I completed my 10 miler. Since I train mostly solo, I do have a fair amount of time to think; always trying to keep my mind on things that are somewhat productive or at least positive. This particular run coincided with a small nutritional tweak that I have incorporated over the last couple weeks: more complex carbs. Yep, I'm female, gradually increasing my mileage, and have no interest in struggling out there due to not getting the right stuff in-cue more grains and bread!
This does not come without a challenge, however; as my schedule becomes increasingly busy. Even this regimented individual finds it hard sometimes to balance everything out (I actually forgot to eat lunch last week...that likely has NEVER happened before!). My go-to for a while has been quinoa. I think I have it practically every other day. Why? For starters, it has the highest protein count of most whole grains out there, and also has the carbohydrates an endurance athlete needs. It's also super easy to make a pot of it, throw some in a container, put some beans, turkey, eggs or whatever I have with some vegetables to top it off and I have a fine desk-dining experience while putting my feet up and likely frantically answering emails or catching up on progress notes. It is also a great pre race or long run substitution for pasta and is not as heavy. I had to laugh as I grossed my mother out with my mixture last night containing all kinds of random things. Hey, it's functional!
As I have my baseline fairly dialed in (or at least it feels like it), I have my faithful sponsor PowerBar to do the short-term fueling. My long runs and hill work seem to feel better after a Performance Energy bar and sometimes a Protein Plus-20g version afterward, depending on the type of workout. Again, it's easy, portable, and requires little to no thought. Perfect.
We had chiropractor Dr. Dustin Henderson speak after the run Saturday morning, and he added more emphasis on top of what I find the most important in my nutrition regimen: timing. The window of 30-60 minutes post-workout is critical to restocking your glycogen, taking in some sort of fuel source 2 hours prior to a workout helps stabilize blood sugars...more on that in a second....
The Mind-"Computer Optimizers":
There is substantial research to back up what carbohydrates do for working muscle groups, but it goes beyond just forward motion-it helps your brain. Proper intake can help with focus and mood. Not feeling it? Try and change something, either taking in some carbohydrate such as a gel or sports drink, or re-evaluate your pre-run strategy. So here comes the psychology lesson of the day: it is easier to have a positive outlook, perhaps even be more confident, when good is put in.
As for thought itself during training, I find that if I aim to go out, not put any pressure on how much effort to give and pick something to work on-usually a form aspect, breathing, staying relaxed, I tend to get a lot out of my time on the trail. Now that I feel like I have a good aerobic base going, I like to visualize running towards the finish chute (without surging out of my mind, though!) and holding my own on a race course. As odd as this may sound, just try it when you're out on a run sometime... Play around a bit.
It's been a while since I've let my imagination go as I train, but it sure does help on the confidence end of things. With an hour plus to spare, I can choose to let my mind go places it shouldn't if I get a cramp or my breathing elevates, or I switch to a more purposeful or positive mentality. In my book, this is another source of "fuel".
As for the "realistic" positivism aspect, I don't go out and see myself beating Kara Goucher or doing something outside of where I currently am-but I do like to envision things going well for me, pushing myself, and all the possibilities this cycle may bring. I do visualize winning, but also how I'll handle not doing so. So far, this approach seems to be working. How do I know? I walk away from most runs (with the exception of the infamous Woodlands Sauna weather) optimistic and feeling like I got out of it what I put into it-nothing more, nothing less.
One of my credos for my season is running is simple. Hopefully, I'm doing a good job capturing that.
So here you have it: some of the keys to my current "nutrition" plan. Subject to change and evolve as I do the same.
Stay the course.