Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Training Through the Cycles of (a Girl's) Life

Okay guys, this post is geared to the girls. Sorry, I will post one for guys soon. Maybe cool running gadgets or something like that.

Every month, about 5-7 days prior to my cycle starting, running gets really hard. My breathing is more labored, I sometimes feel like I have never run before and my legs are like lead. I had one of those runs today as I am in the ZONE, as I like to call it. So, I thought I would share.

Magically, when the PMS Zone is over it is like something out of Harry Potter movie, the spell breaks and I can run and train again almost effortlessly.

The wizard in me decided one season to begin to track the changes day to day. I wrote down every workout how I felt, where I was in my cycle and began to notice a trend. There was no need for scientific data, it was all right there in front of me.

My heart rates were 10 beats or higher in runs during the 5-7 days prior to menstruation [PMS] and would drop to normal rates once I began to menstruate.

My breathing was more labored both in easy runs and hard or long runs during PMS and much easier during menstruation and the rest of the cycle.

My motivation to train was lowered during PMS and found it more challenging to get the runs in.

I was much more fatigued during PMS and slept and napped more often.

From a dietary standpoint, I bet you’ll be surprised to find out I craved sweets during PMS too.

The following tips are just a few ways to take advantage of the cycles of training and improve performance.

• Monitor your cycle and keep track of your strong and efficient phases as well as your more challenging times of the month.
Include heart rate, effort levels (perceived), mood, motivation levels, speed, distance, climate and diet habits. Review it and familiarize yourself with the high and low periods of your cycle.

• Plug your cycle dates into your daily planning system or training schedule. It will be easier to better plan and adapt effort levels and intensities week to week, and even plan races around the highs and lows. At the very least, you will know when to expect the more challenging days of the month.

• If possible, try to schedule your “key” training sessions during the stronger times of your cycle. Cut back or ease up effort levels during the challenging and symptomatic phases of your cycle. This could mean running your long runs a little slower, or running an easy run instead of a scheduled hard run.

• If your motivation runs low, schedule runs with a friend. In most cases, you will run if you plan it ahead of time and they will keep you motivated.

• PMS symptoms have been linked to poor dietary habits and low levels of magnesium, which affects blood sugar levels and hormonal metabolism. Include foods rich in magnesium, B-Complex and calcium in your diet [dairy, green leafy veggies, whole grains, nuts, fish, beans are just a few]

• Maintaining a fuel and activity log (online) can be very useful in tracking the quality going in (food) and the quantity going out (running). Free online logs like www.FitDay.com allow you to enter your daily activity as well as your fuel day to day and analyze the balance. This is a great way to make small changes that will make a great difference in your performance.

• Although some women go as far as adjusting their cycles to match their strong days of the month (typically days 9-12 and 17-20) with hormones, it is best to check with your doctor before doing so.

• About one-third of all Olympic gold medals were won during menstruation. Two-thirds were won one week after cessation of menstruation. That proves it. It is not a burden, but rather a part of our cycle that allows us to excel. If you are scheduled to have your cycle on race day be prepared. There are plenty of fanny packs to carry products. You can also tape it to the back of your race number. In an emergency, stop at the medical station as they will have a supply of feminine products.

• Take care of yourself nutritionally, use Tylenol 8-hour for pain during the race (safest pain medication for endurance athletes) and go into the race with an open mind. You just may have the race of your life!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Home Sweet Home

It has been a few weeks since my last post. I've been enjoying being home and off the road for a bit. We travel again this week to the inaugural Victory Junction Gang Run, a half marathon we created with Kyle Petty (and family) to benefit the Victory Junction Camp.

I am currently training for the Antarctica Half Marathon in February and a marathon in Tierra del Fuego (the End of the World) in March. It is a two-week expedition that include two marathons, kayaking with whales and a lot of sightseeing. A once in a lifetime trip. John and I are crew for the expedition and love the journey. It is truly the closest thing to the moon we will ever see.

The marathon is very hilly, on a dirt road and can be very, very very cold and windy or mild and very, very, very muddy. Once I raced it with hip deep snow in areas. The second time we ran through ankle deep mud. Running the Antarctica Marathon is like a box of chocolates...You never know what you are going to get.

I am training on trails, hill work on a treadmill and lots of strength training. It feels good to be back in training mode. Especially after a full week of holiday mode.

Happy Trails,

Coach Jenny

Friday, November 10, 2006

Eating My Words...

I believe in karma, good and well, not-so-good. I was interviewed today by a reporter in Austin, Texas on running through the winter. We had a great chat about tips and tools runners can use to train through the challenging winter days. At one point she asked about what to do about the cold days, "because down here it gets can be 40-45 and rainy - hypothermia weather". I answered her with a few tips and then told her that in Chicago, that would be a warm welcome. After all, we train on single degree days and below zero wind chills.

Well, not 30 minutes later I headed out the door to do my long run along the Chicago Lakefront path. About 3 miles into a 10 miler, the wind picked up (25-30 mph), it started pouring rain and guess what, it was 40 degrees! I was chilled to the bone and all I kept thinking was I wish I had that reporters number to tell her about how much I suffered. I am sure she would get a kick out of it especially because I made light of that weather.

To be honest, a run in 35-40 degrees and rain is far worse than running in 15-25 degrees and dry or even snow. It chills you to the bone. As they say "be careful what you wish for" as I was handed a full dose of humble pie today.

It was a good reminder of what is ahead this winter. I tip my hat to all the runners in Austin, Texas.

Happy Trails,

Coach Jenny