Categories
Running Training

Six Days a Week

A lot of good things come in sixes: players on a hockey team, muffins in a muffin tin, geese-a-laying, beer. Six is the motivation behind everyone’s ab workout, the number of good Star Wars films once December rolls around and the roll in obscure 1980s board game Race to the Roof that lets you pull an object card and potentially take home the gold.

I hope it's the top hat! Alternate caption: my friends and I are really cool on vacation.
“I hope it’s the top hat!” Alternate caption: my friends and I are really cool on vacation.

One area the number six shouldn’t have a place? The number of running workouts I do a week. Or in other words, my marathon training plan currently has me running a whopping six out of seven days a week, and, my god, I’m. So. Tired.

I’m a runner (clearly, welcome to this blog), so I know my training schedules are going to have me, well, running quite a bit. But given the choice, I prefer schedules with a more reasonable 4-5 days of required running a week. Fewer days pounding the pavement means more time for other cross training activities, like yoga and stretching and sleep, plus it makes every morning jog feel like a gift, rather than a chore.

Which is why my signing myself up to follow Hal Higdon’s “personal best” marathon training plan for the fall 2015 racing season may have been a foolish idea. And by may have been, I mean was definitely a foolish idea. Because I still have 18 weeks of training ahead of me, and I never want to see my Asics again.

According to my pal Hal, the plan was intended for experienced runners who have completed two or three marathons and would like to PR. He was practically pointing at me. The schedule is actually a combination of his 12-week Intermediate Spring Training Program with his 18-week Intermediate 1 Marathon Training Program, meaning the first half is intended to get runners in speedy, light racing shape with hill workouts and interval training, while the second half builds the necessary mileage to complete a grueling 26.2. I didn’t even do the first six or seven weeks since I only started this after the Brooklyn Half, and even these past five weeks of six-day-a-week runs have taken their toll.

How so, you ask? Well, yesterday I only did 4 miles instead of the scheduled 6. And today I’m planning on doing the unthinkable: I’m planning to skip my scheduled run altogether. Usually, I don’t lose my drive like that until tapering, or at least until the day after I eat a really big meal.

photo
Nom nom nom.

At six days a week, I’m about ready to 86 running altogether. Luckily, this upcoming Monday is going to bring a welcome reprieve: the start of Part 2 of the training plan, which replaces my Monday run with a day of cross training. I’m hoping that by scaling down to five runs a week, plus taking off a few buffer days off in the interim, will be just the kickstart I need to get excited about training again.

That, or the next 18 weeks will be torture. Here’s hoping for the former.

How do you keep motivated when you’ve — quite literally, to quote Chris Traeger — run out of motivation?

Categories
Training

Strength in Numbers

Tomorrow I’m going to arrive for my second monthly biometric weigh-in, and the results are not going to be pretty.

I realize that statement opens the door to all kinds of follow-up questions. What’s a biometric weigh-in? It’s a chance for me to stand on a body-fat scale and learn if I’ve built any muscle over the past four weeks. Why do it? Because after reading Matt Fitzgerald’s book Racing Weight, I realized I wasn’t going to get any faster until I upped my muscle content. Who performs it? The free nutrition coach at my office, which, let’s be honest, is a cool perk. Who’s my favorite ninja turtle? I’m embarrassed you had to ask.

For years, I didn’t give a darn about fancy things like BMI and muscle mass and Donatello, assuming that because I ran upwards of 40 miles a week in training for an annual marathon that I surely boasted a healthy body composition. But after I read Racing Weight, I decided to make sure. I made an appointment with my local nutritionist, stood on her shiny scale, and learned the disheartening truth: I have the muscle composition of a 47 year old woman.

Also, the celebrity crushes of a 47 year old woman. Thank you, Joe Biden.

I know what you’re thinking: doesn’t bulky muscle weigh a runner down? It could if you look like the former California Governor, but for most runners, a little lean muscle goes a long way toward injury prevention and higher metabolism and proper alignment and street cred with a West Side Story snap gang.

With that knowledge, I approached the circuit of strength exercises my nutritionist gave me with the ultimate vigor. I did squats. I did lunges. I did alternating superman, or as I preferred to call it, the Christopher Reeve/Dean Cain. And I felt sore and tired and awesome, and vowed to keep it up three days a week between now and the marathon.

I then I went on vacation. And oh man, when I go on vacation, I do it right.

I went to North Carolina and drank all the wine on the Eastern Seaboard.
wine

And chased it with seafood doused in butter by the pound.
shrimp

Then I went to a wedding where the main course was pig.
meat

And there ate several slices of a real, authentic “cheese cake.” They were just blocks of cheese in a pile. I fell in love.
cheese

With that kind of month in my recent history, I can’t imagine there’s anyway I could step on that scale leaner and stronger tomorrow than I was a month ago. There’s no way around it: the numbers are not going to be pretty.

Fortunately, my last four weeks were pretty pretty themselves.

food

Do you work strength training into your running routine? How about cheese cakes?

Categories
Food Recipes

Recipe for Success?

When it comes to cooking, I’m what one might call resourceful.

Resourceful, or forged in the Depression era. You pick.

Raised in a family in which the only thing worse than wasting food was running out to the store to purchase a single item, I internalized young the idea that you cook with what you have on hand. Even in my tiny New York City kitchen, I keep enough pantry staples on hand — canned goods, pasta, frozen veggies, wine — that I can always whip together something nutritious and palatable without making a grocery run.

To put it another way, I half-marathon PRed this spring, toasted my Pulitzer Prize winning colleague, and watched my little brother commit to the woman of his dreams, and my proudest moment of the year was probably the time I opened a barren fridge to find a head of cabbage, two eggs, and leftover Indian food — and managed to make the best fried rice of my life.

With ingenuity and frugality the crux of my cooking philosophy, I was as surprised as you when I signed up last week to receive my first ever Blue Apron delivery.

For those of you not familiar with Blue Apron, it’s a subscription-based delivery service where fresh ingredients in the perfect pre-measured proportions arrive at your door with step-by-step instructions for putting the meals together. Unlike take-out Chinese, you still do all the chopping and sautéing, but unlike traditional meal prep, you don’t do any of the grocery shopping — or even recipe selection — yourself.

In a lot of ways, Blue Apron isn’t my style. But considering a friend sent me a three-meal free-trial box free (a $60 value — thanks, Nina!), and considering wasting free food is the cardinal sin of my childhood home, I signed up.

Hello, beautiful.
Hello, beautiful.

My box arrived a week ago tonight, and in it were the makings of three dinners for two. I knew what I was getting before it arrived — you have the option of declining a week of delivery if the meals don’t excite you — and I knew these three recipes looked right up my alley. Here are links to the three meals I made, plus really unappealing photos taken in bad light with my iphone. You’re welcome.

Curry-Spiced Chicken Thighs with Sugar Snap Peas & Fingerling Potatoes (recipe)
photo 5 (26)

Chicago-Style Italian Beef Sandwiches with Roasted Vegetables & Giardiniera (recipe)photo 2 (72)

Seared Salmon with Sorrel Salad & Creamy Barley (recipe)
photo 4 (46)

Now that I’ve prepped, cooked and consumed all three meals, here’s what I see as the major pros and cons:

PRO: They deliver the ingredients right to your apartment building.

CON: They don’t deliver the ingredients all the way up to your fifth floor walkup.

PRO: They send exactly the right amount of everything you need for two meals, meaning you don’t buy a whole jar of some obscure spice you’re never going to use again.

CON: They send exactly the right amount of everything you need for two meals, meaning there are no leftovers for the next day’s lunch.

PRO: Their recipes are full of fresh, seasonal ingredients, purportedly making for healthy end-of-day fare.

CON: With the excessive use of olive oil and butter, some of their recipes run more than 700 calories a pop.

PRO: Salmon fried in butter is, to be fair, delicious.
PRO: Salmon fried in butter is, to be fair, delicious.

So what did I think? The jury’s still out. If you don’t like grocery shopping or recipe selection, want to try new recipes you might not otherwise, or really like following orders, Blue Apron is undoubtedly for you. If you want more flexibility to cook what you want to cook when you want to cook it, it probably isn’t. Or if you’re somewhere in the middle, you can do what I did: start with their ingredients, and make some minor additions to use up other items already in my fridge.

What? It’s a habit. You know you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

The flower girl.
The flower girl begs to disagree.

Have you tried Blue Apron, Plated or any of the other ingredient delivery services? What did you think?