Monday, January 16, 2017

Shamrock'n Half Week 2 of 10: Improvements! :D


And after two weeks of gray overcast & pouring rain, a gorgeous day at the track on Saturday!

Wellll this week went a little bitter than last week!

I have to say I have had a *heck* of a time getting motivated to start training properly again, which is not usually a thing for me. When I was training for Eugene and CIM last year, I was like a machine. I had my workouts for the entire week memorized, and as soon as I got home from work, I'd change clothes & head out the door in maybe 15 minutes & git'er done, no excuses. So far in 2017 it's like I just do not care. Like, I do want to run a fast half in March, but it's not like a vision that's driving me every day. I have to work a little harder to get myself out the door (though, once I do, it's fine).

The other issue this week was that I finally got back in the gym for strength work (YAY), but even in spite of my efforts to take it a bit easy & not blow out my legs doing squats, I, er, well, blew out my legs doing squats. Like. I didn't even do that many, or with that much weight (in November I was squatting 90 reps of maybe 100 pounds or so & on Monday I started with just 40 pounds--less than the empty bar--& only did 74) and still by the end of the day my quads felt like hamburger meat. So that threw off my running plans a bit!

* * *

Grand Total: 41.65 miles + 2 hours strength & 3 hours karate

* 24.35 easy
* 3 speed
* 2.3 tempo/threshold/race pace
* 12 long

Monday 1/9: a.m. strength / p.m. karate

    Super proud of myself for dragging my ass out of bed at 5:30 for strength work! But less proud about overdoing it & destroying my legs. :-/ Since I didn't run on Saturday or Sunday, I'd planned to run at least a little before karate, but my legs were NOT having it.

Tuesday 1/10: 2 warm-up, 12 x 200m / 200m jog, 2 cool down Rest.

    I went back & forth on whether to try running Tuesday, like I'd be sitting on the couch & think, "I could at least do some easy miles!" & then I'd stand up & my legs were like, "Uh, no. No, I don't think you can."

Wednesday 1/11: a.m. strength afternoon 6 easy / p.m. karate

    I was supposed to go to the gym Wednesday but I stayed up too late Tuesday night so when my alarm went off at 5:30 I was like "F*** THAT NOISE." Legs still screaming a bit from Monday's squats by the afternoon, but I decided to see if I could get a few easy miles in. And, it wasn't so bad.

Thursday 1/12: 3.25 warm up, 2 @ HM pace / 3:00 jog, 3.15 cool down

    At first I thought I'd do Tuesday's track workout this day, but I left work late enough that driving to the track and then driving home and trying to park would have been near impossible. So instead, I did Friday's planned threshold run.

    Lololol at trying to run 7:35 pace. I was clearly still getting over the last bits of being sick; even warming up super easy felt hard. I started my first fast mile, though, and was surprised at first at how easily I was able to hit the pace. "This isn't so bad!" I thought, until I hit .3 miles or so & suddenly it did NOT feel so easy anymore. Sigh. I did manage them at 7:29 & 7:31, so ultimately I called it a win.

Friday 1/13: a.m. strength / 8 easy.

    Thankfully, deadlifts are a bit gentler on the out-of-practice muscles than squats!

Saturday 1/14: 2 warm-up, 12 x 200m / 200m jog, 2 cool down = 7 total

    Finally got to the track for the first time in 2017! A bad habit I have is going out to the track for 200m's & sprinting them like I'm some kind of miler or something, but this week I really had no problem just la-la-ing them in at :43-:44. (Note - early last year, :43-:44 200ms was super fast for me & :46-47 was la-la pace. So that's neat.)

Sunday 1/15: 12 easy

    Such a lovely day for a long-ish run! The sun was out, but it was still crisp and and cool. Though, I started at 2:30 & was glad I didn't start any later as it's still getting dark fairly early. (But OMG, the worst chafing in MONTHS on this run, and no clue why. #coconutoileverywhere.)

Well, that's all I have to report this week. Back to worrying about the fate of the free world!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Books 2016: Quarter 4

As you probably already know, I've been reading a classic a month for the last two years. It started as a one-year project in 2014, but I've enjoyed it enough to keep going with it & will probably continue until it starts to feel like a chore.

2016 Classics: Quarter 1

2016 Classics: Quarter 2

2016 Classics: Quarter 3

However, I must report that I fell off the wagon a bit during the fall. I had my November Classic all cued up & ready to go, but then The Blood Mirror came out (Book 4 of 5 in the Lightbringer series by Brent Weeks), and I started reading that, then realized it had been way, way too long since I read the first three books, so I had to stop and go back and re-read those three, which took the better part of two months as they clock in at 700-900 pages each. I actually didn't end up finishing The Blood Mirror until the first week of January, so here we are in 2017 with me still two classic behind. Ah well.

Anyway, I can at least tell you about my October selection.

October: All The King's Men, by Robert Penn Warren (1947, 661 pages). 4 stars. Filing this one under "Worth reading & I can see why it's a classic, but did not enjoy, exactly." It is very rich, very human, brilliantly written, and the characters practically live and breathe, but a lot of the story felt slow and meandering to me. I couldn't always tell where things were going (not in the good way), parts of it seemed extraneous, and WOW, it's really just depressing as hell. So, I don't know. 5 stars for the literary quality, I guess, but only 3 for my actual enjoyment.

OTHER RECENT READS:

I got suuuuuper lazy this fall keeping track of things I read, but if I don't remember it, it probably wasn't all that great anyway. These were my favorites:

Dark Places, by Gillian Flynn. (2009, 249) 5 stars. The book opens with an epigraph described as a "Schoolyard Rhyme, Circa 1985" wherein 15-year-old Ben Day gruesomely murders his two sisters and mother one winter night in 1985 in their Kansas farm house while the youngest sister, "Baby Libby," somehow survives. Fast forward 24 years, and we spend most of the book following "Baby Libby," now 31 and completely dysfunctional. On the verge of financial insolvency, Libby is contacted by a group obsessed with her family's murders and with exonerating her brother who is serving life in prison. If she's willing to go talk to various people of interest from that night that the Kill Club can't get access to themselves (her brother, estranged father, various associates of Ben, etc.), they'll pay her for her time. Libby wants nothing more than to forget the murders ever happened, but since she also likes eating and not being homeless, she agrees to revisit her past with the KCKC's sponsorship. I loved this book and could not put it down. Yes, there were maybe a couple coincidences too many and I do think the ending suffered from that thing where the story has done such an amazing job building up tension and expectation that no ending ever could have lived up to it. But the writing itself is top-notch, the story dark and chilling and also disturbingly humanizing, and the characters themselves just brilliantly done (diverse, compelling, multi-layered).

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, by Claire North. (2014, 405 pages) 5 stars. The premise of this book is that some people have the great fortune (or misfortune, depending on how you look at it) of being reborn over and over again with all the memories and knowledge of their previous lives intact; Harry August, born in Leeds in the early 20th century, is one such person. But there are complications to such a world, and a set of agreed-upon rules that are not to be broken for the sake of the rest of the world. When Harry learns that one of his ilk has been breaking those rules, he embarks on a bizarre, reality-bending (sort of?) mission to set things right. Really spectacular, well-thought out sci fi. This is a classic of example of the author going, "What if...," following the premise out to all its logical implications, then writing an amazing story around it. Unique, clever, witty, and extremely well-written.

80/20 Running, by Matt Fitzgerald. (2015, 272 pages) 5 stars. I heard about this book a while back but never sought it out because I'd already been on board with the go-(mostly)-slow-to-go-fast principle for a while. But when Cat offered me her copy, I decided to give it a read. While the main idea was not new to me, a lot of the history & science around it was, so I found it to still be a super interesting read. One of my favorite things about all of Matt Fitzgerald's books are how he takes all the data and scientific stuff & presents it in a way that is both interesting and entertaining and also easy enough to follow and understand even if you don't have a math/science background, so if you're interested in learning more but are scared of numbers and data, don't let that put you off.

Faithful Place (Dublin Murder Squad #3), by Tana French. (2010, 400 pages) 4 stars. This story focuses on Frank Mackey, familiar from the first two books as the veteran head of the eponymous Dublin Murder Squad. In this installment, Frank is abruptly thrust back into his childhood community when his teenage sweetheart's suitcase is found in a condemned house in the neighborhood 22 years after her disappearance. As teenagers the pair had planned to run away together, but when she didn't show up as planned, Frank had assumed she'd changed her mind & run off without him. The suitcase suggests otherwise, and he must now confront all manner of ugliness from his past including (for starters) his highly dysfunctional family and a community plagued by family grudges and deep mistrust of the police. The real brilliance of this book is in how much richness and depth French brings to all the characters and relationships and how three-dimensional the world and history feel, and as with The Likeness, the writing is excellent. My only complaint is that the ending felt a little predictable & anticlimactic. But I still enjoyed the ride & look forward to reading more DMS.

Sharp Objects, by Gillian Flynn. (2006, 254 pages) 4 stars. I enjoyed this book for the same reason I've enjoyed reading Megan Abbott and other Gillian Flynn books--a dark, gritty mystery that turns at least in part on broken, unlikable female characters and their relationships. In it, crime journalist Camille Preaker is sent by her editor to the tiny Southern town where she grew up to investigate the recent murder of two preteen girls. In addition to the general unpleasantness of the assignment, this also means connecting with her cold, distant mother, bewildering stepfather, and 13-year-old half sister and navigating the bizarre politics of her childhood town. Naturally, Camille also has her own psychological demons to deal with.Things quickly get weird, then creepy, then gruesome, and although the story was engrossing, it pretty much stayed super dark start to finish. It's not a long book and I think that's for the best, since it isn't one of those books where the darkness is balanced out here & there by humor or absurdity or whatever. I enjoyed it, but it was definitely disturbing in ways that go beyond the murders that set things into action, and I'm not sure I could have hung in there for all that much longer.

The Blood Mirror (Lightbringer #4), by Brent Weeks. (2016, 262 pages) 4 stars. I continue to love everything about this series: Many complex, dynamic characters with layers of back-story. Multiple kickass female characters that defy tropes & stereotypes. Really, really excellent writing. The Bechtel Test. New spins/fresh takes on old tropes. Skillful, brilliantly executed dialogue. Characters you just can't pin down. Large-scale narrative planning that is clever, artful, and occasionally makes you think back two books & go, "Oh, SHIIIIIT." You will never stop guessing. Bad guys do honorable things and have understandable motives. Good guys sometimes do crappy things. Ambivalent characters abound. Political machinations are brilliantly executed. What you thought was characterization was actually plot. What you thought was plot was characterization. He's a clever, calculating man, this Brent Weeks. Can't wait for the 5th & final installment!

* * *

Currently Reading:
Use of Weapons
, by Iain M. Banks

Currently Listening To:
The Vanishing Year
, by Kate Moretti

Up Next:

  • Alice, by Christina Henry
  • Dreams and Shadows, by C. Robert Cargill
  • Annihilation (Southern Reach #1), by Jeff VanderMeer
  • Alena, by Rachel Pastan
  • Mort(e), by Robert Repino
  • The Last Days of Jack Sparks, by Jason Arnopp
  • Girl Who Fell From The Sky, by Heidi W. Durrow
  • Broken Monsters, by Lauren Beukes
  • When The Moon Was Ours, by Anna-Marie McLemore
  • Dear Mr. M, by Herman Koch
  • Gravity's Rainbow, by Thomas Pynchon
  • The Doors of Stone, by Patrick Rothfuss (Come on, Rothfuss. Get it together, man. I believe in you.)

And who knows, whatever else tickles my fancy. (Taking future suggestions as always!)

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Evolution of a Distance Runner: How I Learned to Stop Worrying & Love Going Slow

I've wanted to write this post for a while now, but it's not the kind of post you can really write while you're in the middle of multiple years of being injured & not being able to train & DNF'ing and DNS'ing. Now that I've managed to cobble together something of a reasonably successful season, though, I feel like writing it finally makes at least some kind of sense.

For the first few years of my distance running "career," I didn't own a GPS watch & didn't race, so I honestly had no idea what my pace was. If I was going on a run of x miles, I had a vague idea of what to tell people regarding when I'd be back, but I really had no concept of whether I was running 7:00 miles or 12:00 miles. I even ran my first few races watchless, and although I did get my official finishing times, they didn't really mean anything to me and it never even occurred to me to go back and calculate my pace. (I was a sprinter in school and sprinters don't really talk in terms of pace, so it wasn't part of how I thought about running.)

The first time I can remember ever thinking about pace was when I started training for the Kaiser Permanente Half Marathon in fall of 2009. I would plot out my route using MapMyRun to find the distance, run with an old-school stopwatch, then do the math afterward. Even then the number didn't mean much to me. As I recall, at that point most of my easy training runs were somewhere in the 8:30-9:00 range, depending. I honestly had no idea what kind of race goal time was reasonable, but I sort of arbitrarily decided that trying to run under 100 minutes (so 1:40) sounded nice & round & calculated that I'd need to run about 7:38-7:40/mile to do it. (I ran 1:47:10, ~8:05 pace, in case you're curious. I overdressed and went out waaaay too fast & paid for it with an utterly miserable death march down the Great Highway & Back. SO MANY LESSONS!!)


lol what even is that outfit
(also, that dude behind me tho)

Kaiser '10 was an utterly miserable experience, so naturally, I immediately turned my thoughts towards another half and getting that completely arbitrary sub-1:40. Knowing really nothing more about training for distance races than what I'd learned from Hal Higdon, I concluded that duh, obviously, if you want to race fast, you darn well better start training faster. (Though to be fair to Hal, I should probably point out that he never said this. It just seemed obvious to me.)

I trained and trained and trained kinda sorta in retrospect really not that hard at all but it felt like a lot at the time, did get a good bit faster, watched my PRs drop like flies, nailed that elusive sub-1:40 no less than three times, and by summer 2014 was running my "easy" runs in the 8:00-8:15 range (basically, my goal marathon race pace). Some friends started calling me fast and comments admiring my speedy training paces occasionally dotted my Strava feed.

In a way I felt super baller but in other ways I was frustrated. I was mostly happy with my performance in shorter races, but never seemed to be able to translate those times into the marathon times on the same row in the pace chart (or even remotely close). Positive marathon splits were par for the course. Long runs made me feel like death, so I found excuses not to run so many (or didn't fight too hard to find the time), and every time I tried to sneak my average weekly mileage above the 40 mark for too long, I ended up hurt (whether shin splints or tendinitis or something a lot worse like a stress fracture or torn muscle).

In retrospect, it's hard to remember where or when I started to see or hear more about the wisdom of slowing down. Or, maybe it was always out there and I just didn't want to believe it. "That's not me, I can legitimately run those paces, not like people who try to race every workout." "Oh, those guidelines don't apply to me in the same way; I have a naturally high max heart rate." "No, really; this IS easy pace for me." It makes me cringe a little now but I remember a co-worker on my Ragnar(ish) team asking if I thought I could manage 10:00 miles and I swear to god I sniffed a little & said something about how if at any point I were running 10:00 miles it was because I had a broken leg.

{"Wow, you were a snooty bitch." Yes, but an OBLIVIOUS snooty bitch! That's better, right? No?}

So it's sort of fine and good to be snooty and hoity toity about how fast you run your training runs until you suddenly realize it's been nearly two years since you've run anything like a PR or even managed to string together a single successful training cycle. At that point you kind of have to take a hard look at what you're doing & ask if maybe, just maybe, it isn't all dumb luck and maybe all these experts and coaches and people who actually do this for a living know what they're talking about when they say things like "80% of competitive recreational runners are sabotaging their races by doing training runs too fast."

Probably one clue that this whole "go-slow-to-go-fast" deal wasn't complete bullshit was the sheer number of running/endurance sport experts out there recommending it. People talk about it different ways and the exact recommendations vary depending on who you're reading ("You should run xx% of heart rate reserve" "You should run x minutes per mile slower than your marathon race pace" "You should run easy enough that you can carry on a conversation in complete sentences") but the basic concept showed up over and over and over again. It's one thing if it's one fringe dude saying people should do something that sounds counter-intuitive, but when it's the majority of them, you should probably at least check it out and make an effort to make sense of the science.

So between fall 2014 and spring 2015, I decided I didn't have a whole lot left to lose & dove in.

I dug out my heart rate monitor and calculated my heart rate reserve. I took all the 'pace' fields off my watch, and for months and months and months did nothing but run for time, based on nothing but my heart rate and effort level. The recommendations, at first, seemed ludicrous--"There is no way I can run 10:30 miles for my easy runs, that's barely a shuffle." "OMG there is no way I can do easy runs at 142 bpm, that's like fast walking."--but then I'd think to myself, "Yeah, maybe, but what you're doing now doesn't really seem to be working, sooooo...????"


ca. 2011, ie, the bad old days of chest strap heart rate monitors

And little by little, it got easier. I discovered that yes, 10:00-10:30 pace was actually still running. And, what's more, if I wanted to keep my heart rate in the right range, I actually had to run more like 11:00 miles at first. o.O

(Then again, Phil Maffetone describes working with relatively fast runners whose aerobic base fitness was so bad that they had to actually start with walking fast in order to stay out of the anaerobic zone; at least things weren't that bad for me!)

A couple months back Cat gave me her copy of 80/20 Running by Matt Fitzgerald. I'd first learned about the book long after I was already sold on slowing down so had never sought it out, but decided I might as well give it a read. It was a lot of stuff I already knew, but also a ton more that I didn't!

Two bits I found particularly intriguing were:

    1) If you ask a bunch of "recreationally serious" runners to run at their normal, comfortable training pace and then rate their level of effort on the Borg Scale (which goes from 6-20 for a dumb reason), the overwhelming majority will rate their level of effort right around 13, which the Borg Scale calls "somewhat hard."

    2) If you ask just about any runner to run for a while at a comfortable pace with no access to GPS or other pace/speed information, they'll almost always end up running at about the same pace, AND if you explicitly ask them to start out slower, they'll still gravitate back toward their usual pace, whatever it is.

Ie, we are incredible creatures of habit, and we very quickly come to perceive our usual level of effort as "comfortable," even if when asked we describe that effort level as "somewhat hard."

Thinking back on my own experience, this wasn't at all surprising. Going from running 8:00-8:30 miles on my easy days to running 11:00s felt like crawling, and if I didn't pay close attention to my heart rate, I would very quickly find myself gravitating back towards those low 8:00's while my heart rate climbed through the roof.

Now, this is the part where people will often say things like "But you have to train fast to race fast!" and "Your body does what you train it to do!" and "You have to make your race pace feel normal!" and start yelling about the Specificity Principle. I know, friends. These things felt truthy to me too, once. And the reason they feel truthy is because they all do contain some element of truth. But not necessarily the way our brains intuitively want to apply them.

I won't repeat all the science here because many, many people who are actually experts in this stuff have already explained it far better than I can and I'm sure you know how to use Google. The bottom line is that there is science, quite a lot of it. When you're a relatively new runner (say in your first few years of actually putting some consistent work into it), it's easy to get faster. Most of us have so much room for improvement in so many areas that literally any amount or kind of running is going to make us faster. But once you've picked a lot of that low-hanging fruit, it's not uncommon for recreational runners to find ourselves plateauing. Then what?

Thanks to science, we do know for a fact now that running mostly slow, probably way slower than you think, makes you race faster at just about every distance. There are piles and piles and piles of evidence to prove it, both on the biology side and the real-world results side. The more reading I did, the more I believed that if you train mostly at 8:00-8:10 pace and then manage to race a marathon at 8:00-8:10 pace, you are likely cheating yourself out of a significantly faster race time.

So, I dutifully ran my 11:00(+) miles and worked hard to get my heart rate to stay down in the 140s.

And after a few weeks, a funny thing started to happen. Instead of feeling like I was crawling, running 2-3 minutes per mile slower started to feel...normal. At first you might be tempted to think that indicates I was losing fitness, but my heart rate data disagreed. Whereas my early runs in the 10:30-11:00 range often resulted in an average heart rate in the 160s, I was soon running that pace in the 150s, then the 140s. And then I started to be able to keep my heart rate in the 140s, but run just a little faster.

Something else happened, too.

Back in 2012, I wrote a post entitled "A Confession," which included gems like the following:

    "Friends, I do not enjoy the act of running.

    I don't. It's not fun. I do not find it enjoyable. Most of the time, it's a chore I pretty much have to force myself to do. Nine times out of ten, I would SOOOO prefer to sit on the couch and read or watch X-Files reruns or--gasp--get some extra work done.

    And really, can you blame me? It's physically uncomfortable. You have to breathe hard. You sweat. Your various little aches & pains get going. It's hot sometimes. Or cold. Or it's raining. Or you have afternoon brain coma. This is why I find it funny when someone is like, "Oh, I wish I was a runner, but I just REALLY HATE running." Well no shit, Sherlock! I want to tell them. Of course you hate running. Most of us do. It kind of sucks.

    Of course, I understand that some people really do enjoy the actual act of running. I think I'm friends with a lot of them! And I'm super jealous of those folks. I mean, yes, very occasionally I do enjoy it, if I'm feeling really good and the weather's nice, or if I haven't been able to run for a few days, for example. But most of the time, I can only dream of mustering the same enthusiasm for my runs as I do for a lazy afternoon Dr. Who."

Oh.

My.

God.

These days, those words kind of make me cringe in a combination of horror and pity. If a runner friend were to tell me something like now, I'd immediately be like "Then Christ, girl, give it up already & go do literally anything else! Learn to paint or some shit." I don't even recognize that person now, and that's a good thing.

Do you want to know what changed?

I stopped trying to do my "easy" runs at goal marathon pace or just-slightly-slower-than-GMP. I made myself go slow, until slow felt easy and comfortable and--GASP, you guessed it--actually pleasant.

    "It may seem odd that runners do not naturally choose to train at an intensity that feels more comfortable. The reason, I believe, is that humans are naturally task oriented. When we have a job to do, we want to get it done. Of course a twenty-minute workout is a twenty-minute workout, regardless of how fast you go. But humans evolved long before clocks existed, so we think in terms of covering distance rather than in terms of filling time even when we are on the clock." -80/20 Running, p. 16

    "Runners typically are not aware they are working somewhat hard when running at their habitual pace until they are asked to rate their effort. As a coach, I know that if I tell a runner to run a certain distance at an 'easy' pace, it is very likely the runner will complete the run at her habitual pace, which is likely to fall in the moderate-intensity range. And if I ask the runner afterward if she ran easy as instructed, she will say that she did. In short, most runners think they are running easy (at low intensity) when in fact they are running "somewhat hard" (at moderate intensity." -p. 17

Some other things that happened:

  • I could mentally handle more miles because I didn't hate it.
  • I could physically handle more because I got hurt less (except for the time I tried to do three 20+ milers in three weeks after only about five weeks of running ~30 mpw & got a stress fracture because SMART LIKE THAT).
  • I went from 8:00 pace requiring a heart rate of 190+ bpm to it requiring about 180 bpm.
  • My running economy went through the roof.
  • I ran a marathon just for fun at 8:50 pace and it wasn't even hard (5 months of going slow).
  • I ran a marathon at 8:04 pace, it was the easiest 26.2 I'd ever run, and I finished feeling like I could have run at least 2-3 minutes faster (2 years of going slow).


Running economy, CIM 2016 training (June through November)

Now, let me be very clear--I did not give up speed and tempo work, except for that initial 6 month hardcore base-building period, which I needed to do because my aerobic fitness was so underdeveloped as compared to my ability to run short and fast and hard. But since then, my training plans have pretty much followed the traditional thing where you have one speed workout and one tempo workout per week. (That would be the "20" in "80/20" philosophy.) The difference is that if I'm not doing a workout, I am taking it really, really easy.

I learned a few other interesting things from 80/20 Running as well. For example, I've known for a while that VO2 max, while an important factor in endurance performance, has a relatively low ceiling. But I did not know that many highly competitive runners (say, top college runners or emerging elites) max out their VO2 max with just a few years of serious training. Paula Radcliffe, for example, reached her lifetime best VO2 max just two years into her college running career, yet she continued to run faster and faster for many years afterward by improving her running economy.

Running economy seems to be mostly connected to sheer training volume, though the exact mechanism is still not 100% understood. Mostly likely it's a number of things, including the following:

  • Cardiovascular improvements. This is the part I already knew a good bit about (and I'm sure most others do too). The more miles you run, the more and larger mitochondria you grow, the more red blood cells you grow, the more your blood plasma & overall blood volume increase, the more your body learns to metabolize fat more than carbs, etc. What a lot of people don't realize, I think, is that these benefits come from bathing your cells in lots of oxygen and not much lactic acid, which means mostly zone 2 (ie, 60-70% of your max heart rate, which probably means ~2-3 minutes slower per mile than your marathon race pace).
  • Neuromuscular improvements. Basically, your brain just gets better and better at figuring out the most economic way for your body to run--literally practice, practice, practice. The more you do it, the better you get. (This is also where sleep comes in. You don't reap even close to the full benefit of neuromuscular adaptations unless you're consistently sleeping 8+ hours a night. For more on this google sleep spindles.)
  • Increased fatigue resistance. This part seems to have both physical and psychological components, but one of the major players seems to be a cell signalling compound called IL-6. IL-6 is generated by muscle cells and contributes to fatigue. However, the release of large amount of IL-6 also seems to trigger the body to release less IL-6 in future workouts, thereby kind of "fatigue-proofing" itself. And how do you generate IL-6? By depleting your glycogen. And what is best for that? Hours and hours and hours on your feet. And since running faster puts more stress on your body parts, and IL-6 release is affected by time and not intensity, the best way to maximize this benefit is through lots and lots and lots of super easy miles.

So, yeah. Like I said; the science is out there & you can certainly find plenty to read simply by googling. But if you're the type of person who is more interested in personal experience, I am here to tell you that no, running your non-workout days at goal race pace or close to it will not make you race faster in the long-term, and no, slowing your easy days way, way down will not cause you to lose fitness or make it harder to run fast. Living proof, right here.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Shamrock'n Half Week 1 of 10: Slow Beginnings



Going into this first week of the new year, I was excited to star training for my first "real" race of 2017, Shamrock'n Half, on March 12 in Sacramento. I'd been planning to kick the week off with 40ish or so miles, mostly easy, & to get back into the gym three times a week as I definitely slacked off more than intended as CIM approached in December. Alas, as I mentioned, I've been sick this past week, so it wasn't quite the celebratory 1st week of the training cycle I'd been hoping for.

* * *

Grand Total: 32 miles, all easy + 1 hour karate

Monday 1/2: 8 easy

    Monday is usually a rest/karate day, but since I didn't run on Sunday due to being sick/feeling terrible, I decided to take advantage of feeling good the next day. (Also too many people out sick/traveling so no karate). I had also planned to start back with my M-W-F morning strength routine this week, but at this point it was clear I was getting sick & needed all the extra sleep I could get.

Tuesday 1/3: 2 warm-up, 5 x 5:00 @ 8K pace / 3:00 jog, 2 cool down 8 easy.

    Feeling somewhat better, but the gut check still said speed work was a bad idea.

Wednesday 1/4: Karate. Which is to say, Don & I went to karate, but I was still feeling so yucky that I only did about an hour's worth of kinda-sorta real work.

Thursday 1/5: 8 easy

    These easy sick day runs feel pretty easy, but they are SLOWWWW. I just try to keep reminding myself that I'm sick & haven't suddenly lost all the fitness gains from my CIM training.

Friday 1/6: 8 easy.

    I'd planned to do the track workout on Friday if I was feeling significantly better, but I wasn't, quite, so more easy miles it is. Ain't nothin' wrong with a bunch of slow, easy miles!

Saturday 1/7: Rest

Sunday 1/8: 12 easy

    My plan was to get up early & get my "long-ish" run done as we were busy for the rest of the day on Sunday, but it turned out that instead of sleeping I was up coughing all night, so I spent those hours catching up on desperately needed sleep instead of running. The weather was pretty shitty, including a good bit of flooding all around the city & a number of very large downed trees, so while it wouldn't have kept me in if I'd been feeling better, I suppose if you have to be out sick for a day missing the nastiest weather in a while is the day you want to miss. Ah well.

I'm starting to feel a lot better (still coughing a lot, though) so hopefully I'll be able to get with the program this week!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Onwards & Upwards

Call me pessimistic but I have this feeling like 2017 is maybe going to be one of the most horrific years in quite sometime. I hope I'm wrong, but right now I don't have a whole lot of faith. Which means that in addition to helping fight the raging dumpster fire that is threatening to destroy all that is good in this country in whatever small way I can, I'll probably also need to do a lot of running and racing in order to keep from shooting myself in the face my sanity & spirits up.

First, let us talk DREAMS and WISHES. (See how I'm not calling it 'goals'?)

What I'm most excited to chase in 2017 are PRs in the half marathon & 10K. My private deal with myself was that if I BQ'd at CIM 2016 with enough a cushion to maybe actually get into the race, I would put marathons aside until it was time to train for Boston, and if I didn't, I wouldn't run another until at least CIM 2017. Well I DID BQ, and unless something crazy happens, an 8:00+ margin should get me in as long as I don't screw up the process (not impossible). So no marathons for me in 2017.

My current 10K and half PRs, on the other hand, are nearly old enough for school. Having just PR'd the marathon by a hefty margin gives me hope that perhaps my days of running personal bests aren't all behind me just yet, and besides, I really miss racing the shorter stuff (which I'm better at anyway).

Lately I've been falling down the rabbit hole of the Hansons' training blog, which is fascinating. Last week I ran across a post called "Just Ran My Marathon, Now What? Beginning the Process of Long-Term Planning". There are a few different categories (finished first marathon; BQ'd but have an awkward gap between now & then; had a breakthrough race; DNF'd/DNS'd), & the part I particularly latched onto was this:

    "The marathon makes you very strong. Your aerobic abilities will be through the roof and you’ll be strong. That’s not going away, even after your recovery time. It makes for a perfect time to bounce back with either
    • A dedicated 8-10 week speed session that will help improve your overall speed.
    • Or a dedicated 10-12 week half marathon training segment.

    Either way, you’ll improve your fitness from another angle. This will ultimately take your overall fitness to a new level and this will only help you in whatever direction you go next."

Thank you, Hansons, for telling me exactly what I wanted to hear.

Next, the processes/systems. HOW are those things going to happen?

Good news! In a way, I think it's pretty simple. As Phoebe Wright says, "Let’s talk about the main things that are the main things: 1. The work you put in over the last few months. 2. Your mindset. THAT’S IT." Putting in the work worked out pretty well for me this past fall, which I think is part of what allowed me to get into the right mindset, so I think I'm just going to stick with that.

ONE LEVEL DOWN: What is the work?

  • Get back into (and follow) a solid, periodized strength plan. I did okay with that this past year, but I want to do a better job of actively periodizing things so that I'm not like O NOES I GOT TOO BUSY, AH WELL IT'S RACE WEEK NEXT WEEK ANYWAY. I really like some of the New Rules of Lifting for Women workouts (even though I will probably never do them exactly as written or in the exact order as written) because they incorporate so much serious core/hips/glutes work (squats, deadlifts, lunges, push-ups, ab work, one-legged stuff) and they are HARD. I really do wonder how much of staying healthy this past year was due to all that.
  • Follow the training plan. This is the easy part. No question, it is worth every penny I pay RunCoach to enter my race dates, open my browser window each day, & git 'er done. Zero thinking involved.
  • Up the mileage juuuuust a bit. There's just no getting around it; if you want to get faster, the easiest thing you can possibly do is spend more time running (within reason, OBVIOUSLY). This last fall I got super comfortable with 50+ weeks, so I'm a bit curious to see what could happen if I try pushing that envelope ever so slightly. For the first half of the year I'd be perfectly happy staying at more or less the same mileage I ran for CIM, and then in the second half of the year I'd like to shoot for bringing the average up by maybe 5-10 miles per week & maybe peaking in the 65-75 range. This is pretty ambitious for me, so it will only work if I'm consistent about the strength stuff AND ALSO doing all my prehab regularly AND ALSO getting enough sleep. (ie, it's not just about finding another 20-30 minutes in the day; it's about finding, like, another hour+ in the day.) Eventually, I need a solid plan for this stuff & don't actually have one yet. Baby steps.

    Speaking of wich...

  • Effing sleep. Now THIS is the hard part. As running goes, literally nothing harder.

So.


AMAZING TRAINING SECRETS REVEALED!! Just $19.99 + S&H
Just kidding, you should probably just buy some Nuun or get some
compression socks or something.

Let us now get down to the fun stuff! What am I actually doing in 2017????

I'm glad you asked.

(I assume somebody asked, if only in their head.)

January: Get back on a plan (vis-à-vis RunCoach). Start the workouts up again, but nothing too crazy.

February: Gradually build mileage & work up to longer/harder workouts. Also I'm thinking about running Bay Breeze 10K on 2/12 if I happen to be in town & am feeling up to it. No pressure on myself, really; I know there's a bunch of gravel, it can be windy, and I will only have about 6 weeks of training under my belt. But I kind of love running 10Ks, and it will make me feel good to see by how much I can beat my time from the same race a year ago, when I was just coming back from the stress fracture and beginning to get back into racing shape.

March: Race before it gets stupid hot everywhere!

  • 3/12 - Shamrock'n Half (Sacramento). I'm signed up for this already thanks to an early bird discount. Another SRA race that friends have done in the past & loved. I kind of just want to see where I am in terms of racing the half after stacking a couple months of 10K/half focused training on top of a solid marathon cycle.
  • 3/26 - Wildflower 10K (Morgan Hill). Maybe? This would be a new one for me, but it looks like a solid road 10K not too far away. I've never raced a 10K that soon after a half so I have no idea how well that would even work and maybe it's a terrible idea all around.

April: Train a bunch more. I'm not planning to race in April because I will be traveling a lot for work & want to have enough time for a solid training block after Shamrock'n Half.

May: I have no idea what's happening this month. I'm trying to schedule a vacation for either the first or second week, but I could totally do something in the second half of the month. My coaches mentioned Bay to Breakers but to be honest I'm not really feeling it. So we'll see. On the other hand, there's...

  • 5/29 - Marin Memorial Day 10K (Marin). Marin is a fast, flat, certified course but somehow I've never felt inspired to actually race on Memorial Day. Is 2017 the year??

June: Mostly recover, maybe a bit of racing just for fun, like...

  • 6/24 - SF Pride Run 5K (SF), no pressure. I love this race. The course is not the fastest but it's cheap, close to home, & for a good cause.

July: A couple of maybes that have caught my eye:

  • 7/4 - Kenwood 3K (Sonoma, CA). This would be the shortest distance I've raced since high school so I might totally suck at it. On the other hand, #defaultPR!!
  • 7/22 - SF PrideMeet 5K/10K (Chabot College). I have kind of wanted to run this for YEARS but the timing has never worked out. As an adult, you don't get too many chances to race 5K/10K on a track, so I'm keeping it as an option.

August: Probably just train, train, train.

September: Register for the Boston Marathon (God willing & the crick don't rise); run a little 10K!

  • 9/3 - Race to the End of Summer 10K (San Jose). There was a super cheap re-run sign up right after the 2016 race, so I figured what the heck & signed up again.

October: Run a sick half. This would probably be my fall 'A' race, so targeting something on the fast side.

  • 10/6 - Rock 'N Roll San Jose (San Jose). I know, I hate Competitor Group too. But this is pretty much the fastest half happening nearby in the fall, and you have to give it to them that they know how to do logistics.
  • 10/22 - Folsom Breakout Blues (Folsom). My soul would much much MUCH rather run this race, but it is a bit later, a bit farther, & just a bit more hilly. But keeping it out there as an option.

November: Get my base training on. Rackin' up them miles.

December: Start training for Boston

HOW 'BOUT YOU??? What'cha up to in 2017?

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Process Goals & New Year's Resolutions

Hi, hello, if you have posted a blog entry recently, I have not seen it yet because I have been too busy managing the category 5 hurricane of love and togetherness and holiday madhouse magic that is the last weeks of December.

I was looking forward to reporting that we had emerged unscathed but was then laid low by some sort of nasty upper respiratory nonsense that is currently making it kind of hard to make my life go. This week was supposed to be the week of getting back to FINISHING ALL THE WORK and RUNNING ALL THE MILES and LIFTING ALL THE WEIGHTS and COOKING ALL THE MEALS and generally adulting the shit out of my life but it has instead been the week of finishing some of the work and feeding myself however I can, when I even feel like eating, and desperately snatching at any extra hours of sleep I can eek out of the day. Thankfully, when I can manage virtually nothing else, I can almost always lace up my shoes & get out the door so at least the miles are still happening.

("Wait, you're running when you're sick??" Yes, I use the neck rule, and also the less-easily-quantified-but-perhaps-more-legit 'Do I feel like it or not' rule, and they have never steered me wrong. Running almost always makes me feel better as long as I want to do it.)

All this has put me behind in many aspects of life, including writing scintillating blog posts for my millions of adoring readers, which is why you're getting this one now instead of a week ago. So, sorry. Hopefully it's not too late as to be completely useless (or, at least not any more useless than usual).

WITHOUT FURTHER ADO...

It is the New Year, which of course means lots of people making resolutions to change and hopefully improve things about their lives. To be honest, the New Year's Resolution has never called to me, mostly because the timing seems a little arbitrary. I'm all about committing to Do The Thing to make one's life more generally awesome; I'm just not the type of person who can wait for a particular day to start. But I do understand, I think, the appeal of all the numbers changing at once & having a kind of temporal blank slate. If that timing works for you, rock on with your bad self.

On the other hand, there is something that's always bothered me about the way people make NYRs and the types of resolutions that are most popular, and thinking more in terms of process goals than outcomes lately has I think clarified for me exactly what it is. And that's that, although resolutions come in a range of shapes and sizes, it seems like many of them revolve around perceived shortcomings, around shame and guilt, around not being good enough in some way or another.

This saddens me. In a way, it reminds me a lot of the Scott Adams quote I shared in the Process Goals post:

    "If your goal is to [accomplish x], you will spend every moment until you reach the goal—if you reach it at all—feeling as if you were short of your goal. In other words, goal-oriented people exist in a state of nearly continuous failure that they hope will be temporary."

Ie, if your New Year's Resolution is to lose 10 pounds, there's often an implicit assumption that your current weight isn't good enough, that you're not skinny enough or small enough or don't look enough like someone else, but once you lose those 10 pounds then you finally will be good/skinny/attractive enough and live happily in your body ever after.

Or if your resolution is to achieve y professional goal or level or what have you, the implication that your current accomplishments or position or whatever isn't good enough, but if you can finally do y, you will finally be happy in your job.

Or if your resolution is to run a sub-xx:xx whatever, the implication that you're not fast enough but once you can run that time, then you will be fast enough and impressive enough and all will finally be well in your running life.

Basically, it feels like the starting condition is "failure" or at best inadequacy, and the resolution is set up such that you remain a failure unless and until you achieve it.

I think this can be damaging because a) this type of goal setting (and, by extension, resolution setting) rarely works, and b) it all kind of leads back to "who and what I am right now is Not Good Enough and doing x will fix that." Like, if you can finally manage The Thing, then you will finally shed the yucky crusty skin of the Old You and unveil a shiny, fancy, New-And-Improved You, the real you that you were always meant to be, and life will finally--FINALLY--reach the levels of awesome you always knew were out there waiting for you.

But here's the thing.

They're not.

The awesome and the peace and the true happiness is not out there waiting for you once you finally Do The Thing.

If I had more time right now, I would google up some references for you, but this is a real thing people have studied--the idea that once you accomplish x, you'll finally be happy--and it just isn't true. Yes, finally achieving something you've been fixated on or striving toward for a while often gives a short-term boost in happiness or life satisfaction, but it almost never lasts, and people tend to return to baseline levels of happiness and satisfaction pretty quickly. So a lot of times, this type of goal setting or resolution ends in

    a) not accomplishing The Thing, thereby remaining in a state of failure, or

    b) finally accomplishing The Thing, feeling happy/satisfied/at peace for a while, and then returning to the same baseline feeling as before. ("Well, losing 10 pounds / finally running that sub-4 marathon / buying a house didn't completely change my life the way I thought it would, BUT I bet if I lose 5 more pounds / run a sub-3:50 marathon / have a kid, THEN I'll be happy/satisfied/at peace.")

Guess what.

Whatever the discomfort or feeling of not being enough is, it is not going away through Achieving Things. No, not even healthy, good, positive, productive things. There is no shiny, fancy, New-And-Improved You out there just waiting to be unveiled by Achieving The Thing. There's just you, with all your goodness and badness and human-ness, and s/he is JUST. FINE. AS. IS.

The awesome and the peace and the happiness? You can have it. But it's not going to come from finally Doing The Thing. No; you can have it just as you already are. Really.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying people should never have goals or dreams or stuff they want to accomplish or that having those things is somehow categorically bad. And I'm not saying it's necessarily bad to think, "You know, x area has always been a challenge for me & I think I'd like to work on that a bit." And I'm definitely not suggesting we all settle or be fine with mediocrity or never strive to improve and achieve amazing things. (After all, that's kind of one of the greatest thrills of being human.)

Just, maybe think really hard about why you want to accomplish a thing and what you hope to get out of it, and be really honest with yourself about whether it's coming from a place of "You know, I'd like to improve at x / Hey, x would be super cool!" vs. a place of "x thing about me is wrong/lacking/broken/not good enough/needs fixing and I won't really feel okay with myself until things are different." There's a difference between wanting something, and feeling like you need it in order to be okay with yourself.

(I know about this. I did this to myself, about running and so many other things, over and over again, for a long time. In some ways, it's an ongoing battle.)

So, what if for New Year's Resolutions we maybe stopped with thinking about how we're not good enough and all the ways we need fixing and improving and all the stuff we maybe feel ashamed and guilty about and instead said, "I and my life are not perfect but still actually pretty great already, what would make my life even BIGGER and RICHER and FULLER?"

Perhaps taking a fun class and learning something new? Not because "I am lonely and isolated and socially broken and that needs fixing" but because it will add richness and depth to your life?

Perhaps trying a new fruit or vegetable every week or month or whatever, not because "I am an unhealthy bad eater and that is shameful and needs fixing" but because trying new things and discovering new things to like and enjoy is good times?

Perhaps convincing a friend to join you once a week or whatever for a fun physical activity, not because "I am not active/skinny/fit enough and that needs fixing," but because it's nice to hang out with a friend you maybe wouldn't see otherwise and because it feels good to move your body in the world?

Or maybe, "Yes, jerkbrain, I hear all the stuff about me that you think is bad and shameful and not good enough, but maybe we ignore all that this year and try to make life more awesome in one of these other ways that is completely not related to that stuff at all"?

Of course, sometimes people do make New Year's Resolutions to address serious health concerns like addiction, substance abuse, managing chronic health conditions, etc. because those are things that DO legitimately need fixing, ideally sooner rather than later, because the consequences of not fixing them can be so disastrous. And come to it, I think in those situations you have to do whatever works for you. But I also know that there is quite a long history in the world of 1) outcome-based goals (say, quitting smoking) not really working unless there is some serious planning and ongoing support in place, and 2) shame and guilt rarely being productive emotions. So sometimes when I hear of people making NYRs like "quit smoking" or "actually follow x diet my doctor has put me on for a diagnosed condition," I can't help wondering if a New Year's Resolution is really the right caliber tool for that particular job. {shrug}

Yes. So. TO SUMMARIZE:

You're probably not perfect but prooobbbably still pretty great.

You don't need 'fixing.'

You won't magically be happy/satisfied/at peace with yourself when you finally do the Big Thing you for some reason feel you need to do.

Go forth in 2017 and do something that makes your awesome life/self that much more awesome.

:)

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

(Repost:) Please Stop with the Fitness Tips for the Holidays

(It is that time of year again, so reposting this seemed appropriate. Enjoy. :) )

* * *

It looks like a smile, but it's really a scream for help. PUT THE FREE WEIGHTS DOWN, CINDY.
Seriously. You are making the rest of us so, so sad for you.

I don't know how to tell you this, but every time you start listing practical tips for staying fit & healthy during the holidays, everyone is laughing at you and definitely not taking notes.

Here is a list of real-ass "helpful holiday fitness tips" I have actually heard or read over the past week or so that have made me throw up a bit in my mouth with embarrassment for those doling them out:

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

In addition to maintaining your normal exercise schedule, squeeze in an extra workout or two whenever you can. You know, in all that extra free time you have around the holidays. Bring your free weights to office meetings. Do laps around the cell phone lot as you wait for loved ones at the airport. The possibilities are endless. (I prefer wine aerobics and cookie yoga, myself.)

After a midday holiday meal, convince your friends & family to go for a fun, festive post meal jog or walk. GODDDDD please don't be this person. Please. You want to go for a fun, festive calorie-burning walk/run? By all means go for it. But please don't attempt to browbeat the rest of us who kind of just want to sit on our asses and shoot the shit with a glass of whiskey with people we only ever get to see once a year. Don't be that guy/gal.

Before you go to a party, decide ahead of time to limit yourself to three bites, three cookies, your three favorite foods, etc. and stick to it. Yes, limit yourself. To three bites, or three cookies, your three favorite foods, three foods of each color, three plates of food, three foods that remind you of each person at the party, three vats of artificially colored cookie frosting, etc. Again, the possibilities are endless. You do you.

Buy a low-fat, low-sugar eggnog and skip the alcohol to save calories per cup. Or, you could skip directly to stabbing yourself in the throat. :D

Enlist a fitness-minded friend or family member to be your holiday exercise buddy! Look. Those of us who want any kind of exercise buddy probably already have one. Those of us who don't want you to stop talking about this because you're making it weird for everyone.

Instead of baking cookies or playing board games, pass the time with an active pursuit like snowshoeing, hiking, or building snowmen or igloos. Recent studies show that holiday board games are definitely, DEFINITELY a leading cause of the Obesifying Of AmericaTM. Probably also terrorism. GET OUT THOSE SNOWSHOES, PEOPLE.

Instead of mulled red wine, make mulled cider. You save the calories not only from the alcohol in the wine, but also from the added sugar, since cider is naturally sweet. You know what makes cider 'naturally sweet'? FUCKING SUGAR. See also: Stabbing oneself in the throat.

Instead of dark meat slathered in gravy, choose lower-fat white meat without the skin and enjoy it with just a drizzle of gravy made with defatted pan juices, dry white wine, and low-sodium chicken broth. If you come to my holiday dinner and start talking about 'defatted pan juices,' we are so over. SO. OVER.

Bring your own healthy snacks to the holiday party. Yes, please totally be that sad person sitting in the corner eating celery sticks and homemade GMO-free hummus out of your sad little tupperware while you gaze longingly at your Three Favorite Foods. It won't be weird or awkward for ANYONE, TRUST ME.

Skip the baking; you probably eat more cookies while baking. Fuck that noise. You wanna bake? Fucking bake. YOU BAKE THE SHIT OUT OF THOSE FESTIVE HOLIDAY COOKIES AND EAT AS MANY AS YOU WANT. You baddass motherfucker, you.

Invite holiday vacation visitors to join you at the gym or a favorite exercise class. No. NO. NOOOOOO. Trust me; they do not not NOT want you to do this. HOLIDAY. VACATION. Look it up.

Do some yard work. What?

Lace up your sneakers and powerwalk between holiday errands at the mall. This is definitely not the saddest, most depressing thing related to exercise I've ever heard. Definitely, definitely not. (See also: stabbing in the throat.)

When traveling for the holidays, bring along a favorite fitness DVD and yoga mat. ARE. YOU. JOKING.

Eat and chew slowly. Take a second to savor each bite of baked brie or scoop of spiced nuts! Oh, so it's not enough that I'm packing my own fitness DVD and drinking sad teetotaler eggnog and powerwalking the mall between murdering children errands, now I have to monitor my chew-rate? IS THERE SOME KIND OF APP FOR THAT???!?!?

Turn away from temptation by facing away from the dessert spread. Don't worry, your chew-monitoring app probably also comes with DessertCompassTM.

Choose a tall, skinny glass instead of a short, squat one; you'll drink less. Ha. Hahaha. Hahahahahaha wanna bet? (Or, maybe your chew-monitoring app also comes with CupChooserTM.)

Sneak puréed veggies into baked goods in place of butter or oil. Bitch, I will straight-up cut you.

When baking [IF YOU MUST], try subbing half the flour with whole-wheat flour to increase the fiber, which fills you up faster & makes you feel fuller longer. You guys, sorry to be the killer of dreams, but I have spent way too much time sitting in a sports nutritionist's office and the whole wheat flour thing is 90% bullshit.

Stand up to "food pushers" -- Just say no, over and over and over again! Is this, like, the grown-up equivalent of the war on drugs? You would actually think it's that serious, based what WebMD has to say about the matter: "Despite your best laid plans, your holiday food goals can still go awry thanks to 'food pushers' – friends, family members, and co-workers who refuse to take 'no' for an answer when they're offering fattening treats. These are the people who, for whatever reason, seem to believe that their holiday celebration just isn't complete until they get you to give in to their food weaknesses.' YOU GUYS, DON'T GIVE IN TO THEIR FOOD WEAKNESSES, NOOOOOOO! J/K, you eat WHATEVER THE FUCK YOU WANT, you baddass motherfucker.

(RealTalk: OK, sure, I agree that this is SUPER weird behavior that some people definitely engage in, but it's not limited to the holidays, and part of being a grown-ass adult is learning how to politely say 'No thank you' with a lovely smile plastered on your face when a thing is not your jam. So, like, stop making it weird, WebMD. This is not about Teh Holidayzzz or getting fat.)

Instead of trying to squeeze exercise into your schedule, take other things out. Like parties. And alcohol. And baking. And free-form chewing. Basically, anything that might bring you joy for half a second.

Skip the savory finger foods, creamy dips, and fried canapés, help yourself to a small handful of nuts, reduced-fat cheese and fresh fruit, or chilled shrimp. I have an idea, what if you helped yourself to whatever the fuck you felt like eating and didn't make a big deal out of it?

Honestly, you want my tips for staying fit & healthy during the holiday (AND I THINK YOU DO)?

  • Eat like a normal person most of the time & have a tasty holiday treat or two when you goddamn feel like it.
  • Do your normal exercise when you can but do not feel bad & flagellate yourself if you are sometimes too busy kissing under the mistletoe or slapping under the slappy spider or just feel like today you're more interested in wine/pie/polishing off that whiskey advent calendar.
  • Stop talking about it like it's a thing. Everyone is laughing at you.