Mountain tops, pine trees, wild flowers, puffy clouds, dirt trails, thin air. Runners dig this stuff ;)
Altitude training is a staple for Olympic and professional-level endurance athletes. (Some even go so far as installing specific chambers for sleeping that simulate altitude conditions…)
I have over three years experience with living and training in high altitude. Actually, the 7,000 ft. elevation and forest trails were one of the main attractions of the collegiate cross country program I selected. For a runner, pine-lined dirt trails are the ultimate training landscape.
Altitude training is an incredible tool for cross country training. The effects of a decreased oxygen supply are immediately noticeable….you will find yourself breathing deeper and your heart beating faster after climbing a flight of stairs. (Now try moving into a top-floor dorm room with no elevator!) Every summer I spend at sea-level, and every August I have to re-adjust all over again.
When I moved back to school on Saturday, I was unsure of how my ‘Sunday Long Run’ would fair….I had 13 miles on the menu. I decided that I would not be concerned with pace. I just hoped I could breathe!
But I did have some snazzy new shoes to motivate me even more ;)
To be honest, it was one of the BEST long runs of the summer. I didn’t feel the effects of the air until after my run, most likely due to the fact that I was so happy to be running along such a beautiful route in the perfect weather. My happiness converted to adrenaline and I was done with 13 miles in no time! My 7:27 average pace which had me PUMPED! (I will admit that severe fatigue set in a couple hours later…)
Endurance sports are as much mental as they are physical. Something about being outside on a trail, surrounded by massive trees and rows and rows of yellow flowers has a calming power. Of course there are days when I struggle to get through a few miles. But there are also others where the miles fly by with such ease. I full-heartedly believe that having a positive mental state is the most influential aspect to long-distance running. :)
The Science Behind the Strategy:
As elevation increases, the atmosphere has a lower supply of oxygen. When we exercise (particularly cardio exercises) we begin to breathe heavier (duh.) because our body needs to convert oxygen to CO2 at a faster rate to keep up with our activity.
Exercising at altitude decreases the amount of oxygen available in each breath, and over time the body acclimates to these conditions. Your respiratory system becomes more efficient at the O –> CO2 conversion. Therefore, returning to sea-level (more oxygenated air) allows an athlete to perform with more ease or with more speed.
Some Factors to Consider:
- The air is also typically more dry at altitude. It is easier to become dehydrated. Fuel and water are muy importanto!
- The sun also seems to be a little harsher. If you’re not a sunscreen queen already, lather up and protect your skin! There are plenty of “Sport” sunscreens on the market that are reportedly sweat-proof.
- Mountains and trails mean nature, and nature usually includes creatures… snakes, bugs, foxes, skunks, bears, elk (oh my!). Running on trails is also secluded. If I can’t coordinate with a running buddy, I like to stick to a route that is around a residential area or main road. I carry pepper spray and stay alert!
The hype about altitude training is really all it’s cracked up to be. It definitely requires more effort and includes more fatigue in the initial weeks. But after your body begins to acclimate and your breathing is less dramatic, you can see significant improvement in endurance performance from training in elevation.
Plus, it’s just pretty!
*My new apartment isn’t quite ready yet but I can’t wait to share all of my decorative touches with you when it is :) I think this year is going to be the best one yet.*
What do you think of when you hear “supplements”? I always considered “supplementation” an extreme aspect of body building for the vein-popping, testosterone-driven, hulks of the gym. Supplements, in my brain, equated to freaky chemical-laden concoctions that artificially promoted muscle mass.
I was wrong.
I am now a member at GNC. Something I never thought I would say.
After being introduced to supplementation in Jamie Eason’s program, I learned that simple additives like a multi-vitamin, calcium, and whey protein are part of supplementation. I do this already! So I began more research on some of the more unfamiliar products like BCAA’s and Glutamine. And then I bought some myself.
Branch Chain Amino Acids: (According to WebMD & Bodybuilding.com) the essential amino acids our bodies require in order to build muscle (and function in general). They can prevent fatigue by reducing muscle breakdown during workouts. Most of these we can get through a healthy, natural and balanced diet. BCAAs are also prevalent in whey protein; however the best time to ingest the BCAAs is during a work, while protein is used afterwards. Separating the BCAA from the whey protein leads to faster-digestion and efficiency. *This is the most science I have learned/used in the past three years of college!*
Sometimes there are “gaps” in our nutrition plan. Jamie describes taking BCAA supplements as our “insurance policy” to make 100% sure that our gaps are filled in. Nothing crazy or magical about this supplement, it’s just like taking any other vitamin or mineral.
On Friday, I spontaneously pulled in the GNC parking lot on my way home from a class. My thoughts had been consumed by my new LiveFit program and I wanted to find a BCAA supplement to add to my training plan. (Obvi I got more Quest bars while I was there. The cashier now knows me by my Quest Bar consumption.) The guy working the store, who was familiar with the bodybuilding.com training programs and Jamie Eason, gave me tons of helpful information when picking out my product. He was really patient with me and explained the differences in all the BCAA products. Ultimately I chose GNC’s brand (I wanted one that contained Glutamine) in Watermelon flavor!
This is a powder that I add to my water bottle and drink during my workout. It also ensures that I am fully hydrated during the workout as well, always a bonus. You can’t really have too much water. Drinking water isn’t really something I struggle with anyways but it will be nice to have some fruitiness added to the mix :)
Whey Protein: Whey Protein powder has gotten a bad rap. One diet-extremist tried to convince me that whey protein and dairy products in general were the devil, never meant to be ingested by humans. Just like anything, there are pros and cons and I always do my own research with *hopefully* reliable sources. So I’ve concluded that whey protein is an acceptable means to post-workout recovery mix and I stocked up with a chocolate flavor (duh) to mix with unsweetened almond milk for post-workout nourishment after intense strength workouts. For ideal recovery, we should aim to intake our protein source within half an hour of our workout. I’ve included more facts on whey protein and isolates in this delicious Chocolate-covered Strawberry Protein Smoothie post from last year:
Calcium, Iron, Minerals, Oh My: Even the individual vitamin pills you can find at Target and Walgreens are considered supplements. They are an important part of professional body builders’ training regimen too, because strength training is extremely stressful on our bones and tissues, so they may need a little extra help.
All these new habits to form and products to try out has me PUMPED. The shopping and stocking up my kitchen was the fun part. Now I get to use it all and see how it enhances my training.
How about some more throwback smoothie posts to my brunette days…
This track workout is followed by another Berry Protein Smoothie:
And yet another post-raquetball “workout” smoothie with some greens:
Another favorite is to just mix chocolate protein powder with almond milk in a blender so it’s frothy, and freeze for half an hour. It’s honestly like ice cream :)
What are your thoughts on supplementation?
Today is an especially inspiring hodge-podge of quotes, links, videos, and songs that I have found motivational in my past three months of training for my first marathon. Getting goosebumps just thinking about it now!
First off, I started a “Marathon” board on Pinterest (obviously…) you can follow here —> Marathon.
1.) Many marathoners have professed the power of the “mantra”. Who am I to question them?
**Mantras are phrases that you can repeat to yourself to bring your mind back to a relaxing and calm state**
The phrase I selected:
Its simple (easy to remember!) and should be a reminder to relax in case I feel some nerves or doubt.
2.) A lot of people ask Why are you running a marathon? If you have to ask, you won’t understand. To them, running 26.2 miles (by choice!) seems like hard work, a punishment, not a fun activity for their Sunday morning. That is not the case for myself and the thousands of other racers I will be joining at the start line.
Running literally changes you. Long distance training increases your endurance and patience in tough situations. It’s stress relief…energy release…”me” time…cardio exercise.
3.) This video is a pretty sweet compilation of running clips. How cool would it be to have video of clips from each of your most memorable runs/workouts in scenic settings, vacations, camps, etc.?! Future project for myself…
4.) Now something a little less serious…..
It’s funny because IT’S TRUE! My neighbors can confirm ;)
5.) If I needed any further motivation, it would be this right here:
My dad is on his bike next to me whenever I need a running partner at home. He and my mom are so proud of me and supportive of my marathon training. If I ever doubt myself, I can think about the amount of time & energy they have put into helping me get here! How lucky I am to have parents so happy to help me achieve my dream!
6.) It’s no secret that MUSIC is one of my biggest motivators. Whenever I download new songs, my first thought is always “I can’t wait to go running so I can listen to this!” What a fitness nerd…
I’ve posted a series of songs from my marathon training playlist so I’ll continue with this little treasure…”Breathe” by Ryan Star
Been listening to this one since high school!
7.) Because my research on tapering before a marathon concluded that the final week is all about CONFIDENCE, I will include this last personal bit of motivation. I’ve watched myself grow from a struggling high school cross country runner, to a recruited D1 collegiate athlete, to FINALLY a marathoner. It makes me proud. Every day I am grateful for the ability to run because it is my passion, something that I will never give up. My motivation is the fact that I have been thinking about this challenge for more than five years and I am finally going to accomplish one of my biggest goals :)
**Bonus Marathon Training Playlist Song!**
This one seems obvious. But a playlist wouldn’t be complete without Mr. Eminem. I plan on repeating this song no less than 6 times during race day ;)
If you have some other source of inspiration please share! :)