I’m very excited to debut my first guest blog post! The beautiful Amanda LaVergne has been kind enough to take out time from her Broadway show, Annie, to write up an article geared especially toward runners! In this blog you will find advice based on years of experience from avid runner Amanda, from race day nutrition to training tips. This pretty lady is the epitome of strong and fit, and I am honored to share her advice. You can follow her blog at http://www.amandalavergne.com! Happy reading and running!
“I’ve learned that finishing a marathon isn’t just an athletic achievement. It’s a state of mind; a state of mind that says anything is possible.” –John Hanc
I can’t help but be giddy with the beginning of Spring because with that beautiful sunshine also comes Running Season. While I love a good kickboxing workout, SoulCycle class, or Pilates session, nothing has ever been as consistent and as reliable as my running shoes and the pavement.
I have always enjoyed running. I loved that I didn’t have to adhere to a class schedule, especially with the erratic calendar that I tend to keep and that it was a cheap way to stay in shape (and sane) for this NYC actor. In 2010 I decided to train for my first marathon. I bought a few books, I logged in the mileage, and I ran a really tough and painful 26.2 miles in a 3:45 in San Antonio. I vowed to never run a marathon again. Those people are crazy.
Fast forward a few years, and over hundreds of miles later, I applied to run the NYC Marathon with the Alzheimer’s Association Run To Remember team and my running world changed. Long solo runs were a thing of the past and workouts were planned and monitored by some amazing coaches. I trained 6 days a week to toe the line at Staten Island on the morning of November 4th, but Hurricane Sandy had different plans, so I had to change mine.
I signed up with a few of my teammates to head down to run the Miami Marathon at the end of January. It meant adding another 3 months of training, but I was chasing a Boston Qualifying time. Miami held it’s own storm for me. I got sick a few days before the race and the heat was too much for my body to handle, and I ended up calling it off at mile 18 from severe dehydration and road in a bus to the finish line.
Not to be defeated, I signed up for the Go! St. Louis Marathon in April. I met with my coach and we discussed food and fuel. From February to April I monitored my food/fuel and found a balance of intense running with easy/recovery workouts and finally in St. Louis, I crossed a very hilly finish line with a Boston Qualifying time of 3:25:02. I finally completed what I had set out to do 11 months before.
So where does that leave you and me? Here are a few things I have learned over the last thousand or so miles that came in handy.
As a runner, or any type of athlete for that matter, you have to think of food as fuel. It can set us up for success or failure. My pre-race, run, workout fuel is a combo of complex carbs (sustained energy) and protein (muscle building and tissue repair). I have 100% rolled oats with raisins, walnuts and a scoop of peanut butter. It is easy on my stomach and keeps me fueled.
During my long runs, I have tested out a few food options. It isn’t the easiest to run and eat, so that in and of itself was tough to grasp. I tend to gravitate towards fruity gummies or chews (ie. Sports Beans, Clif Shot Bloks, Honey Stingers) for running fuel as opposed to chocolate GU or liquids. It is a consistency and flavor thing for me. But no matter what, always fuel with water because the stomach is a sensitive beast after 2 hours of running. I tend to take a gel every 4 miles on my long runs, and on my marathons, I try to grab a sip of water at every fluid station and Gatorade at every 3 or so. There are so many options for fuel though, so give a few different ones a try on a shorter run to see if it is your cup of tea. And if none of them work, cut up some Fig Newtons and stash them in a plastic bag and take that. Works just as well!
Because immediately following a long run, the last thing I want to do is eat, I tend to recover with chocolate milk. It is a perfect combo of carbs/protein/water/sodium that is great to chug when I am done.
Things to keep in check and possibly avoid while training: sugars, alcohol, fibrous vegetables, anything fried, and excess caffeine. For the week leading up to a long race or a long run, monitor your intake of food and fluids. There will be a direct relationship to what you put in and what results you see.
I tend to run 5 days a week, crosstrain one day and take a full day off. (This is all while doing 8 shows a week). If you are a beginner runner, spend a few weeks just walking/jogging/running 2-3 days a week and slowly build up. Once you have a base then make sure you get in some hill and interval work, tempo runs and speed work in addition to recovery runs and your long runs. These tech workouts will make you faster, more efficient and stronger. At the end of the day, choose which runs you are going to push yourself and which ones will be recovery and easy. You shouldn’t dread your sneakers.
And last but not least, recover. Running, just like any exercise, can take a toll on your body. If you ask a lot of your muscles you have to give them the time to heal and rest. A foam roller, lacrosse ball and yoga mat should become your best friends. Make sure to schedule the stretch time after your run when planning your workout. You can’t continue if your body doesn’t get a chance to repair. And if a nagging pain doesn’t let up, or something seems more serious than just soreness…take a day or 2 off. Training is a moot point if you can’t show up to the starting line healthy and feeling your best.
Like I said, this is all stuff I have learned through my own journey. We each will have a different running journey, but the mission should be the same. To get up and get out and get healthy. Opt for a Happy Hour Run instead of that margarita one afternoon, meet up with a local running club to expand your Facebook Friend count, or find a cause that means something to you and lace up for them. Whatever you do, just lace up and get out there. See you at the races!