I'm pretty excited that at 37 years old, after years and years of "almost there" , I'm finally feeling like I'm reaching my athletic capabilities and goals. KNOCK ON WOOD, I'm healthy and uninjured..FINALLY! This level of health has actually saved me in the last few weeks when "survival mode" had to kick in during some extremely long days that required me to be in constant motion and have non-stop energy from before sunrise to after sunset. What I found was that maintaining and being diligent about my training schedule, sleep schedule, and nutrition needs during these crazy, whirlwind days most definitely allowed me to have enough energy and stamina to make it through without getting sick or suffering a major lapse in training for my race. Yay!!!
So, I started thinking about what has really attributed to my ability to feel so "ON" lately. As I entertain thoughts of kicking up my competitive goals with ultrarunning, I realize that I've made some adjustments over the last few months that have made a significant difference to my overall health and the smaller details of my training regimen.
1. YOGA. I finally caved and put my past negative experiences with yoga aside and decided that with my extreme flexibility "issues", it was absolutely imperative that I either spend tons and tons of money to hire a personal "stretcher" or find a yoga class that I actually like. I started 3 days a week at Yoga Oasis in downtown Tucson a little over a month ago and BINGO-- It's working! I like the fast pace of the class, which incorporates a rapid progression of popular yoga poses mixed with some other challenging poses that kick my ass. The challenge is good for me and keeps me from being "bored". And the benefits are worth the $4 per class. I'm feeling more flexible and less rigid on the trails. And most important--I'm preventing injury!
2. CROSSFIT. I've talked endlessly about this topic before and how much I love crossfit training. Unfortunately, I don't get to do it every day, but I spend at least 3 days a week either training with a group or doing the workouts at our gym. I've strayed away from most of the workouts that require olympic lifting, only because I don't do it enough yet and when I do, I tend to get hurt a little bit. So, until I can devote more time to crossfit, I'm focusing on the metabolic conditioning and workouts that incorporate more relative strength work like pullups, handstand pushups, squats, box jumps, and sprinting.
3. FOOD. Eliminating pretty much all sugars and caffeine before my R2R2R proved a positive move in changing my energy reserves and output. Maintaining this change has been very important. The few times that I added sugar back into my diet resulted in such sluggish, sleepy, poor performance, that I think I probably lost at least a couple quality days of training, working, and just living with good energy.
I've also discovered that I have a difficult time processing most grains, especially rice. The performance nutritionist I work with had me change things around to incorporate mostly vegetables and salads with added proteins into my daily menu and this small (or large) change has also proved positive in increasing performance levels. Fortunately, I really love trying new, unique veggies and recipes, and also have several wonderful green-thumbed friends in my life who have been bringing me weekly goodies from their gardens!
4. SLEEP. Study after study over the last several years has shown that people who lead very active daily lives sleep better at night. It's kind of a no brainer. I mean, we watch kids run themselves ragged outside playing for hours on end and think "they'll sleep well tonight!" So why don't we think that way for our adult selves? Too many adults (and children unfortunately) lead very sedentary lives. We drive our cars, we park in the closest spot possible, we sit at our desks, we sit down to eat, we sit in front of our computers, our tvs, our video games and then we lay down to sleep at night. Hmmmm. Sure, some adults exercise the prescribed 30-60 minutes 3 days a week. But compare those workouts to the hours spent sitting or laying down every day? No wonder so many people struggle with sleep! Their bodies aren't tired! I am so grateful to have a job that requires me to be active, on my feet, and moving constantly. And I know that as much as I can sometimes complain about the hours and how tired I am by the end of the day, I now realize that if I didn't have this job, I might not have these wonderful nights of great sleep followed by a good, energetic, quality day. (I should mention here that it's true that a lot of adults are "tired" by the end of the day. But I would encourage all adults to take a look at what's making them "tired". Because caffeine can make you tired, food can make you tired, sitting can make you tired, and weather, illness, and too much sleep can make you tired. This kind of tired doesn't necessarily make for good sleep and can, in fact, make for sleep problems.)
5. TRAILS. My favorite, beloved trails in the Rincon, Santa Rita, and Catalina Mountains are shut down due to fires or fire danger. So, while I continue to perform my daily rain dance, I have had to explore some other trails in the Tucson area. Sure, some of the new trails I've found are too rocky, have had me cursing and falling over myself and into cactus, but the thing is---it's still a trail and it's what I love and why I do what I do. I spend a good portion of my day on mountain trails. Quiet and peaceful, I get to think about things in my life and sometimes work out problems or stressful situations. Mostly though, I get a daily lesson on me and my character--flaws and all. Because the trails challenge me and push me to choose whether or not to embrace the challenge ahead.. or not.
So...these days, while I'm out on the trails, I'm thinking a lot about what else might up the "ON" and what might be possible for me in the next few years athletically. Dreaming big, setting big goals, and most important, consistently listening to my body. Because I'm pretty sure I won't achieve much if I start to ignore these things.