In my running circle of friends, this week marks an important part in marathon training- the taper. They’ve logged in countless miles, foam rolled and stretched out sore muscles, and balanced their training between speed and recovery runs to prepare for Sunday’s Chevron Houston Marathon. It wasn’t that long ago that I too found myself physically and mentally preparing for the long and arduous task of running 26.2 miles.
With a fourteen month in tow, these days I find myself training for a very different kind of marathon better known as motherhood. It requires all of the mental and physical stamina of distance running along with a few other tricks of the trade. Without a doubt, my years training and competing in marathons and ultras prepared me for this new marathon I run every day. My 24/7 training schedule as a M-O-M!
Oops, I Fartleked!
A fartlek workout is a well-known part of the vernacular in the distance community. This is a workout that includes periods of fast running intermixed with periods of slower running. This workout can be a great endeavor to take on in a group and is an excellent way to enhance speed and agility.
In mommy circles, a fartlek usually starts with a fart and ends with an incredibly foul-smelling, dirty diaper. Extra points are awarded if it’s an exploding one. This workout also enhances speed and agility as you work as fast as your hands will allow to clean the sh*t storm in front of you and keep your toddler from going into full blow meltdown mode. Because let’s be honest, he’d much rather be playing with his blocks than lying on his back covered in poo.
LSD- I’m not referring to the hallucinogen!
In either circle, LSD is not an acronym for the hallucinogen most popular in the 1970s. Among marathon runners, LSD stands for Long Slow Distance. This run is typically completed on the weekend and gradually builds to almost the entire length of the marathon. The intention is to improve endurance and maximum oxygen uptake through a constant pace of low to moderate intensity over an extended distance or time. Most marathoners will train up to a LSD of 20 to 22 miles about three weeks prior to a marathon and then begin to taper.
This Mama Bear fondly refers to LSD as Lethargic & Sleep Deprived. This occurs as a result of several key factors. One you have a toddler who’s an early bird and rarely sleeps in past 6:30. Two, you run yourself ragged most days juggling work, managing a house and children, and making time for your spouse. Three, you don’t sleep through the night even if your youngest now does because every little cough, cry, or sigh you hear in the monitor rouses you awake and send you instantly into worry mode. Thank goodness for the invention of coffee. It’s a miracle worker in almost all of the mom circles I have the pleasure of being a part of!
There’s Carbloading, but it doesn’t involve pasta!
Two nights before a big workout or a big race, distance runners carbload to maximize the store of glycogen in their body. This carb frenzy, free-for-all includes stuffing your face with assorted pastas, pizzas, and breads in an attempt to prepare your body for everything 26.2 miles will take out of you.
On the flipside, most mommies utilize a similar training strategy to maximize the store of patience in their body. It’s called wineloading. This free-for-all includes sipping wine, binge watching Netflix, and finally putting your feet up after a long day of “momming” so hard. Like a marathon, motherhood will take a lot out of you!
Speedwork- You have to run fast to race fast!
In running circles, speedwork is a critical part of increasing speed and achieving a new PR (Personal Record). There are a multitude of training options including but not limited to Yasso 800s, mile repeats, tempo runs, progressive runs, and track workouts. All of these workouts when paired with recovery runs and cross-training create a perfect recipe for a stellar race.
Ask any mom about her speedwork and she’ll tell you it’s accomplished while their children are napping. It’s amazing how much you can get done while they nap if you maintain focus, utilize speed, and never slow down until naptime is over. True to the expression, “no rest for the weary,” my speedwork usually includes laundry, meal prepping, general tidying, and incessant organizing!
Cross-training- Building strength and flexibility in muscles to supplement running!
For runners, cross-training helps build strength and flexibility in muscles and is often completed on rest days during a training cycle. Popular forms of cross-training include yoga, weight lifting, swimming, and cycling.
For most moms, cross-training includes having a baby or toddler attached to your hip at almost all points of the day. You’d be surprised the kinds of muscles you develop from lifting and carrying said baby all around the house with you. Because multi-tasking is already a strong suit of mine, I’ve learned how to load a dishwasher or a washing machine with a baby on my hip. Holding Atticus, I can squat down to retrieve things from the floor. Lifting him in the air overhead to make him laugh and smile has also done wonders for my biceps. Who knew carrying and lifting a baby would prove to be a new form of cross-training for me!
Group runs- A group is defined as two or more, right?
Prior to pregnancy, group runs were a regular part of my training schedule. It was the ideal way to blend the physical needs of training with the social needs of friendship. Wednesday evening runs at Rice and long runs on Sundays at Memorial Park were the highlight of my week.
Today, however, a group run typically just includes Atticus and me. I push a bright yellow jogging stroller through the neighborhood at a rather brisk pace while an adorable, babbling toddler kicks his legs excitedly and takes in the fresh air around him. While the social aspect has waned significantly, I do find the physical benefits of pushing a jogging stroller to be an ideal way to improve my overall fitness. These runs have quickly become the highlight of my week too!
All joking aside, long distance running is still one of my favorite pastimes even if my priorities for the sport have shifted significantly. I still run five to six days a week, but it’s more about maintaining fitness, carving out some solitude for myself at the end of a busy day, and recognizing that this new marathon I’m running offers so much to be grateful for.
Best of luck with weekend to all of my friends running the Houston Marathon. Weather permitting, I will run through Memorial Park with Atticus and be on the left hand side of road at the intersection on Memorial just past the Living Bridge. I look forward to cheering you on with my new training partner in tow. Have a great race. Run fast, enjoy the miles, and kick some serious asphalt!