Last Updated on September 27, 2019 by Heather Hart, ACSM EP
Every now and then, only slightly more frequent than the appearance of Halley’s comet, I make sensible and rational decisions about my racing based upon my volume of training.
I’m just kidding, I’m way better about it than I used to be. If you’ve been a reader of my blog for awhile now (back in the good old days of Run Faster, Mommy!) you may or may not remember the numerous full marathons (i.e. all six of them) that I either only half trained for, or worse, completely winged. As a fitness professional, I recommend that you NEVER do that. Ever. Alas, I was young(er), stupid, highly sleep deprived in the midst of raising babies, and almost always thought that 26.2 miles was “no big deal”. I’d also like to add foolish, victim of the FOMO, genetically lucky in the running department, and even more lucky that I haven’t permanently injured myself.
I’ll have you know that it has been 2.5 years since I’ve run a marathon unprepared…or any marathon for that matter (Spartan Ultra Beast doesn’t count in my book, though well over 26 miles, it was a “beast” of a different nature, pun totally intended.)
The irony here being that my fitness level and workout frequency is far greater than it ever was 2.5 years ago. Go figure.
Regardless, these days I am far more likely to respect and honor the knowledge I gained slaving away over textbooks in college, namely, the wonderful principles of exercise (as well as give a disapproving mom look to those who choose to wing ridiculous races with minimal to zero training.)
The seven principles of exercise are as follows (in Heather terms, of course)
- Individuality: Everyone is different and responds differently to training.
- Specificity: To get better at your particular sport, you have to train for that sport. Cross training is great and beneficial, but running all day isn’t going to improve your golf swing.
- Progression: You can’t jump from Couch to 5k to 50 miler. It just doesn’t work that way, and you’ll probably get hurt.
- Overload: To become stronger, faster, and have more endurance, you need to progressively add resistance or time/intensity to your workouts. Why? See #5
- Adaptation: Your body adapts to what you do, and becomes more efficient. Thus, as you adapt, you need to train harder. See #4.
- Recovery: Rest, or you will regret it. Your body needs time to rebuild in order to become stronger.
- Reversibility: Simply put, use it or lose it.
These principles are not complex; one does not need a degree in exercise science to understand why they make sense. Yet SO many athletes and exercise enthusiast choose to ignore almost all of them. Specifically, #3: the principle of progression.
Typically around here, when I generalize about groups of people, I’m often referring to myself. It is my blog after all. So let’s get to the point, shall we?
The Spartan Ultra Beast.
26+ miles of brutal obstacle course racing on a mountain.
Again, if you’ve been around here for awhile, you remember this race, my only “DNF”, my white whale that I vowed to seek revenge on. I trained all winter and spring with the idea of this race in the back of my head. But then summer hit, and life just got in the way. Don’t let Pinterest and all of the “death before skipping a workout” motivational quotes plastered over some chick’s six pack abs fool you, LIFE HAPPENS. My kids took precedence, work came in second, the new gym without child watch got pushed to the side. I did what I could, when I could, but I certainly wasn’t Ultra Beast training. And I was OK with that. In fact, I decided that maybe I didn’t even want to do the Ultra Beast after all.
And now here we are. Just a few days over 5 weeks from the Ultra Beast. 38 days, to be exact. The kids have gone back to their dads to start their school year. I’ve gotten back to training, and with a mighty sense of purpose. I feel great…and I might be getting a case of the FOMO. Except I cannot decipher if this feeling is simply a case of not wanting to be left out of something truly epic, or I I genuinely want this race for me. Really, truly, want it.
(I think I do.)
I took to the Facebook, of course, because that is where every social media maven turns first when there is some sort of drama in her life. A simple status update of three lone words: “Stupid Ultra Beast”, elicited a quick 52 responses, most of which were my obstacle course racing friends telling me to suck it up and race. It’s funny. You see, if I post anything about running when I may be over-training, or lifting when something hurts, all of my sensible, fitness inclined friends come to the rescue with wise suggestions to “listen to my body”, “not over-do it”, and “what would you tell a client if they came to you saying such things?” But post something about not being sure if I’m even partially ready for a mud run and all of my obstacle course racing friends practically hold spears to my throat and tell me to quit being such a pansy.
Gotta love those crazy bastards. Come home with your shield or on it.
So here I am, stupidly debating how I can defy the principle of progression and see what I can come up with in only 38 days. Am I in better shape than I was this time last year? It’s so hard to say. A year ago right now I was just coming off of a two month stint of teaching 1-4 group fitness classes EVERY SINGLE DAY. I was burning upwards of 4,000 calories a day working out…and it wore me into the ground. I was mentally, physically, and emotionally stressed out. A year ago next week I was diagnosed with both tonsillitis and bronchitis that knocked me on my ass for weeks. I hardly did any training the last month leading up to the Ultra Beast. I still covered 90% of that race before they made me quit.
This year, I am not teaching group fitness classes. In fact, I work from home: I sit on my butt for 8 hours a day writing and entertaining the likes of the social media world. My cardio is decent, though not where it was last year (though chances are good I’m not about to come down with some sort of virus to knock me out for 4 of the next 5 weeks). I’ve put on a good 8 lbs of muscle, my upper body is far stronger than I was this time last year, thanks to my man who is always insisting I do my time in the weight room when I’m longing to just go for a run instead. Alternatively, thanks to the new job, I’ve also put on about an equal 8 lbs of body fat, which a) sucks that my clothes are all tight, but b) is likely to keep me warmer in the freezing waters of Killington mountain.
The more I think about not doing the Ultra Beast, the more I want to do the Ultra Beast. The more that I think that I am not physically ready, the more I realize I may be far more mentally prepared than I was last year. The more I think about doing the Ultra Beast, the more I wonder if I am going to wind up with another DNF. The more I think about the DNF, I wonder if I’m being smart in thinking I’m ill prepared…or if I’m just afraid. Fear. It’s a dream killer.
I do know one thing for sure: if I show up to Killington next month and do not toe the Ultra starting line, I’m going to regret it.