This year on my birthday, I am going to run a half-marathon. It will be my fourth run at this distance. It has been my goal to stay in half-marathon shape on a regular basis by alternating short runs with strength work during the week and doing a long run each weekend. But I got in a rut, a really bad rut, and although I stuck to my workout plan, I wasn’t feeling good on the long runs. I felt weak, cramped, fatigued and slow. I had to admit to myself that I just wasn’t in half-marathon shape.
My workout didn’t have enough variation, and my body had become too accustomed to it. I had hit a long, flat plateau. It was time to change things up and really get moving again.
To jump-start things, Carla and I discovered a new strength workout that is all but kicking our asses. And we’ve started running intervals. We’ll run two miles slowly to warm up, then run a mile at a faster pace than normal, then recover for a half-mile and repeat. I never thought I would say this, but I really enjoy intervals. We’ve also started running fartleks. Yes, FARTLEKS. That’s Swedish for “speed play.” (When I first mentioned it to Carla, she thought I’d said, “Fart less,” and couldn’t understand how that would help our running!) Basically, you run at your normal pace, then sprint for a short distance—like, from one telephone pole to the next—then return to your normal pace. Rinse and repeat.
And now we’re cooking! I feel stronger already, and working out is interesting and fun again. I think I’ve probably dropped a couple of pounds and I’m feeling really good. And we’re both feeling really, really hungry!
As a vegetarian, I’m always making sure that our diet has everything we need. We like simple, one-bowl main dishes that have a nice balance of protein and carbs, and plenty of vitamins and minerals; and when we’re exercising a lot, this becomes doubly important.
This week I made a grilled corn and roasted green-chile chowder that fit the bill. Potatoes and corn gave it plenty of carbs, red peppers and chiles provided vitamin C and B, and milk gave it protein and calcium. Nutrition aside, the corn had a sweet, smoky flavor from the grill, and the roasted chiles gave the chowder interest and spice. A big bowl for dinner, and I feel good to go for the next morning’s workout.
And now that I have my workout back on track, I’m thinking it’s going to be a pretty great birthday.