Tis the season to be…stressed?
Yep, it’s that time of year again. Everything may be merry and bright but the holidays may also leave you feeling a bit rundown and stressed out. When you find yourself ready to throw in the tinsel, try these top 5 holiday stress busters to give yourself a little relief.
Get enough sleep.
Aim for 30 minutes more sleep per night. Turn off the TV, put away electronics and get some shuteye.
Get some exercise every day. Even getting outside for a 10 minute walk can reduce stress and boost energy levels. If you need a little motivation or accountability try joining a group like the ZOOMA Holiday Challenge or ZOOMA Love Run Challenge to keep you moving through the season.
Take deep breaths.
When you get frustrated by crowds, traffic, deadlines, etc., take slow, deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth to help you calm down.
Don’t be afraid to say no.
Guard your schedule and don’t overcommit. There’s no shame in saying no.
Avoid last-minute scrambling by planning ahead. If you know you need to host a gathering or bring a dish, gather ingredients or start chipping away at small tasks now to be better prepared.
It’s easy to worry about how much your quads or calves will be taxed on race day, but don’t overlook your hardworking dogs; in a half-marathon, your feet hit the ground at least 20,000 times.
After all your diligent training, don’t let a blister make you wince in pain for miles—or worn-out shoes slow you down. Here are some steps to take to make sure your feet are feeling fine when you toe the line.
1. Get a new pair of shoes roughly a month pre-race, and get a few miles on them. It’s best to get the brand and model you’ve been training in, unless they’re giving more problems than your overbearing boss. (If that’s the case, go to a running specialty store, bring in your old kicks, get your gait evaluated on a treadmill and try on a at least three different pairs to make sure you get the right fit.) To ensure the new kicks feel ready for action on race day, wear them on a few shorter (3- to 5-mile) spins and one long run. But don’ t overload them–30 miles total is a fine break-in for them—so you feel a fresh spring in your step when you run the race.
2. Have a great pair of socks ready for action. By “great” we mean something other than socks from a Costco cotton six-pack. If you aren’t already, you should be sporting synthetic or wool socks specifically designed for running. The sweat-moving fibers will limit blister-causing abrasion, while the fit and padding ensure your feet are comfortable. (Well, as comfortable as they can be with all that pounding.) We particularly love Feetures! socks, and many Zooma runners agree.
3. Trying rubbing some BodyGlide, Asics Chafe Free, or other sports lube on your feet on your long run, and if it works for you, use the same treatment on race day, especially on blister hot-spots like your heel, ball of foot, and between toes. Your tootsies will appreciate the extra attention.
4. Save the pedicure and heavy-duty callous removal for post-race. Unsightly as they may be, that dead skin build-up (ewwww!) serves a purpose as a protective layer. Scrape off too much, and you’ll leave soft, fresh skin exposed and blister-prone. (If you’re embarrassed to bare your feet, post-race, with calluses as thick as an orange peel, just smile and say, “I’m a runner, what can I say?”) And don’t go crazy clipping your toenails. Short is good–you don’ t want a long nail digging into a neighboring toe for 13.1 miles–but too short can be painful, too.
5. If you develop a blood blister under a toenail, either in the race or during training, it’s time for the DIY surgery. Sterilize a needle and pop that bad boy (go in either under the nail, or if need be, through the top of the nail). It’s gross, but not nearly as painful as it sounds. In fact, after the deed is done, you’ll feel nothing but sweet relief as the built-up pressure will be released.
As you embark on your training journey, sometimes it can be tough to get in the groove. The key is to find ways to pull yourself up when you’re down—and get out the door. Here are few sure-fire ways to get fired up:
Tell people about your race plans. If you find it tough to keep yourself accountable, recruit your friends, family, and co-workers to do it. By blabbing about your half-marathon to enough people, they’ll invariably ask you how your training is going. It feels a whole lot better to be able to say, “This weekend I ran double-digits for the first time,” instead of, “Oh, I haven’t run in two weeks except when I nearly missed the bus.”
Get up early and get it done. Sure, we’d all like to sleep in or lounge around, but by waking up and working out in the a.m., you don’t have time to debate skipping your run—sometimes it’ll even feel like you aren’t fully awake until halfway through your mileage. Also, when your run is the first thing checked off on your to-do list, real life can’t intrude: No boss to make you work through lunch or convincing friends who rope you into happy hour to sidetrack you later in the day.
Create some playlists. Music is a proven mover so load up your iPod with some fresh tunes. Or download a podcast or audio book (many public libraries offer them for free). When you don’t feel like hitting the treadmill, the desire to listen to the next episode of the My Favorite Murder will get you going.
Just go. Engage in head games. Tell yourself you only have to run for five minutes, then you can come back. Chances are good that once you’ve gotten started, you’ll remember how good running makes you feel, so you’ll keep going.
Prep yourself. As with most things in life, preparation for running is key. Lay out your clothes the night before your run or keep your packed gym bag by the back door. It’s harder to blow off a workout when your gear is staring you in the face.
Put on your music before you get dressed. Shaking your bootie a bit will get you revved up to run. Trust us.
Find a training buddy. It’s one thing to bail on your own run, but quite another to leave someone in the lurch, standing on a street corner at 6 a.m. In addition to being an incentive to not press the snooze button, running with someone turns a run into fun. It’s a great way to multi-task: Get in your workout and catch up on your pal’s wedding plans or work drama.
Reward yourself. Sometimes the run is reward enough, but it also helps to have something extra-special calling to you. Tell yourself that after you accumulate 50 training miles, you’ll treat yourself to a pedicure or a bottle of bubbly. Or we’ve heard of gals who sock away a dollar for every mile run, then spend the dough on a shopping spree post-race.
When you’re training for a race, it’s easy to let enthusiasm propel you out the door to run every.single.day. Or maybe it’s nerves that rev you up; you’re worried you won’t be ready at the starting line if you give yourself a break from running before race day. Either way, you need to take a step back and a deep breath, and repeat after me: Recovery is as important as running.
It may seem counterintuitive, but to reap the benefits of your workouts, you need to take a day or two a week off from working out. Exercise makes little tears in your muscles. When you give those muscles time to repair themselves, it makes them stronger. If you don’t give them time, guess what? They don’t heal and eventually your performance—and even your health—can suffer. Rest and recovery is as much a part of race preparation as eating right, stretching, and doing weekly longer runs.
Rest comes in two varieties: complete and active. A day of complete rest means no exercise, just going about your daily living: going to work, grocery shopping, hanging with friends or family, watching a movie from Netflix. Active rest, as its name implies, involves doing some activity, like swimming, walking, or yoga, instead of running. The former is good because it keeps you mentally fresh, so you’re looking forward to the next workout (and gives you day off to take care of tasks you might not have time to when you’re training), while the latter is helpful because movement speeds oxygen-rich, healing blood get to your injured muscles faster. Both are beneficial.
R&R: sounds easy, but just in case it doesn’t feel easy to you, here are some pointers:
1. Experiment with what works for you. For some people, taking a complete rest day each week makes them stronger and more energetic; others prefer active rest to complete rest.
2. If you opt for active rest, realize the optimal word is rest. It doesn’t mean intervals on the bike or an ultra-intense yoga class that gets your quads shaking. It means an easy 20- to 45-minute workout that gets your blood flowing and heart pumping. Walk with a friend, take your dog on a fun hike, or take an easy yoga class–whatever suits your mood.
3. Listen to your body on a daily basis. If you haven’t scheduled a rest day but feel sluggish or achy, take the day off totally and pick up on your training plan where you left off. It doesn’t mean you’re lazy; it means you’re smart.
4. Speed up your muscular recovery after a long run with an ice bath; once you hit the 10-mile mark, fill a bathtub with cold water, supplement with ice cubes, put a fleece jacket on your upper half and a warm hat on your head, and take the plunge. (Make sure your legs are completely submerged in icy water.) There are two benefits of this torture: The cold makes tiny tears in the muscles contract and close, minimizing pain later on. And when you get out after 10 or 15 brrrrrracing minutes and take a hot shower, the blood rushing back to your legs flushes out lactic acid.
5. Recovery doesn’t only happen on rest days. Also key is ample amounts of sleep; 7 to 8 hours nightly is ideal. Also, when you’re traning, it’s important to eat the way you know you should, being sure you refuel within 30 minutes after a workout with carbs and protein (a glass of chocolate milk does the trick). Finally, if you can swing it, get a massage regularly or invest in a foam roller to keep your muscles supple and ready to run.
Training is almost over, you’re in the middle in the taper, and you’re filled with restless excitement for race day. Which, on one hand, is a great thing: You can stay up to watch Master of None without feeling guilty. On the other hand, you’ve got all this energy and, because you can’t run your ya-yas away, it has nowhere to go. Some of it gets channeled to your mind, which can’t help but wonder if you’re ready to go: if the training you’ve done is really enough to get you up and over the hills; if you’ve got what it takes to tackle 13.1 miles in the way you hope you can; if you really want to put yourself out there.
The best way to quiet your doubts? Take a little time this week to reflect on the journey you’ve been on through your training cycle.
You’ve probably run in some extreme conditions; maybe it was crazy heat, maybe it was the pouring rain. You’ve definitely run when you didn’t want to. You’ve probably bailed on some social plans—drinks with friends, book group—so that you could get up and get your long run in. You’ve resisted hitting the snooze button when it would have felt oh-so-good to sleep in. You’ve kept running when every fiber in your body told you to stop. You’ve likely asked your body to run faster or farther than it ever has.
In other words, you’ve done some seriously hard work, and now it’s time to trust that by reminding yourself all you’ve done:
-Look over your training schedule, review your previous workouts you’ve logged online or otherwise tally the miles you’ve covered. Check out those sweet numbers!
-Remember where you—both your body and mind—were 3 or 4 months ago. Amazing change, huh?
A 3-mile run: perfect amount of time to process your day.
A 5-mile run: perfect amount of time to process your day + daydream.
An 8-mile run: perfect amount of time to process your day, daydream, and, as your legs tire, wonder why you thought taking on a half-marathon was such a good idea, anyway.
As the length of your training runs increase, an odd algorithm can happen: Your boredom level can go up, while your enthusiasm nosedives. Your steps feel the same (hard and slow), but your Garmin can’t emit its one-mile-is-up beep fast enough. Here are some great ways to kill the time—and the miles:
1. A good friend to run with you. Use the time as a healthy happy hour (or two) to relive bad dates, talk about family drama, rehash the latest Kardashian drama, and otherwise laugh and connect.
2. If you don’t have one friend who can cover all the miles, line up one or two to go a few miles with you. Figure out an easy place and time to meet him/her in your route. If there’s a choice, opt to have somebody join you toward the end, when you might be dragging, instead of the fresh-out-of-the-gate start of your run.
3. Don’t retrace those steps; try a new route instead.
4. Tackle a trail; the twists and turns will make you feel like you’re in a video game and the time will fly by. If you need a recommendation for a route or ask for suggestions at a local running or outdoor shop. Because trails are physically more taxing than running on pavement, run for time instead of miles. If an 8-mile run usually takes you roughly an hour and a half on pavement, run for 90 minutes on trails and don’t worry about how much distance you covered.
5. Download a book onto your iPod. Although it may seem like the gothic twists of Cathy and Heathcliff’s doomed love might not fire you up, you’ll actually get lost in the story and the miles will tick by. Many public libraries offer free book downloads, or check out this site for a bunch of links to ebooks.
6. Not up for committing to a whole book? Try a podcast, which can range from the serious (60 Minutes) to the compelling (This American Life) to the mother runnery (Another Mother Runner Radio) Not sure where to start? Try this tutorial from iTunes.
7. If you’re on a busy route, play road-trip games, either by yourself or with a running pal. Anybody who can remember all 26 letters of the picnic game (“I’m going on a picnic, and bringing apples, bananas, corn on the cob, doughnuts, edamame…”) gets to stop running a mile early. Just kidding.
8. Create a special memory-evoking playlist, like songs from your high school career or the number one hits from each year of your life. Not only will you know every lyric, but you’ll also relive some past experiences as you trot along. Another option: the full score of a Broadway musical (Hamilton, anyone?)
Although having a clothing crisis weeks before the race may seem a bit melodramatic, giving your race-day outfit some thought now will pay off later. (Read: Your non-red, non-angry thighs that haven’t been rubbing together for 13.1 miles will graciously thank you.) Yes, weather can be unpredictable, but give some thought to what you think you might wear on race day, then wear the whole outfit, from your hat to your socks, for a long run or two. This way, you’ll know if your favorite pink tank doesn’t cover your muffintop the way you thought it did (disappointing to find out that detail in your eagerly awaited race pic) or if your shorts’ pocket doesn’t accommodate your two gels (sucks to find that out when you reach for one at mile 9, and it fell out miles ago).
Some ideas of what to—and what not to—wear on race day:
1. Unless you’re shaped like Karlie Kloss, you must consider your inner thighs, and how they will likely collide frequently. The skin-on-skin contact is affectionately called chub rub, and while it feels unpleasant with every step or the race, when you hit a hot shower, it’s positively shriek-inducing. The best way to avoid chub rub is to wear some bottoms that definitely will not move–a pair of capris work best. If those are too warm, consider longer compression shorts or a skirt; many styles of skirts have compression shorts under them. That said, some shorts under skirts tend to creep up over the course of a long run, which is why you’re doing a test run in your duds.
2. Be sure to have some storage for keys, cash or credit card, and an I.D. somewhere in your clothing. The little key pockets in most bottoms suffice, but if you want to carry gels or chews, an iPod, or other necessities, plan out where you’ll store them.
3. To get the best race pic possible, go with a streamlined outfit. A skirt, which eliminates the unsightly crotch bulge most running shorts create within a few steps, is a great call. Capris are flattering friends, too. Take off your hat, if you’re wearing one, for the finish line photo.
4. Hopefully, by now, you’ve found a good sports bra that supports your ladies, feels comfortable, and doesn’t produce angry red marks on your super delicate skin. If that’s not the case, run—don’t walk—to find one. Two places to check out: Champion’s Sports Bra Finder and Title Nine’s Bounce.com, which is great for the DD+ sizes.
5. For a shirt, think about sun protection. The technical fabrics used in many athletic tops now have UPF to shield harmful rays, but if you wear a tank, remember to slather on some sunscreen on exposed shoulders. Oh, and we know you’re excited, but debut your nifty race tee on a future training run–not race day.
6. Even if it’s nippy on race morning, dress as if it’s at least 10 degrees warmer than what it really is. If you’re not a little chilly standing around, waiting for the start (or, during your trial runs, during the first few minutes of your run), you’ve overdressed. Although a light jacket might feel good for the first mile, do you really want to have it wrapped around your waist for the next 12? Didn’t think so.
You’ve put in the hard work. Now coast into race day like a pro.
At the risk of sounding like a cheesy soundtrack, when you’re in the last week of training, this is it: the final countdown. You’ve done the training, and now your body is primed to get this party started. Optimize your race experience by treating your body properly in the hours leading up to the start.
Here are some rules of race-prep:
T: 72-24 Hours Pre-Race
-Stay hydrated. Drink enough so that your pee is lemonade-pale, not straw-yellow. (Sorry if that’s TMI!) Also, a good sign to of hydration is having to get up once a night to use the bathroom.
-Eat some salty snacks, like pretzels or some low-fat crackers, to help your body hold onto more water. You’ll sweat out electrolytes (which are mostly salt) like crazy on race day, so stocking up now is a great idea.
-Focus on eating a few more healthy carbohydrates like brown rice, pasta (whole wheat, if you can stomach it), whole-grain breads. Your muscles will stockpile the fuel for raceday. Needless to say, now is not the time to fret about calories.
-Aim to get some solid shut-eye–aim for at least eight hours–especially two nights before the race. Studies have shown that’s the night that can affect performance, not the night right before the race. So don’t fret if you toss and turn in the hours leading up to your race-day alarm.
-Don’t do anything too that throws your body too out of whack. No happy hour pitchers of margaritas, no 10 o’clock movies, no ridiculously long work days (if you can help that). In a similar vein, don’t get a pedicure; you’ll want those calluses on race day.
-Check the weather. You’re want to dress like it’s 10-15 degrees warmer than it really will be, so you won’t overheat during the race. Put another way: you want to be chilly standing at the starting line.
T: 24 Hours Pre-Race
-Do a short run–three miles, max–to get your mind and legs ready to run. It’ll remind you of how fit and ready you are.
-Continue drinking plenty of caffeine-free liquids: water, decaf tea, milk, sports drinks.
-Kick back, if possible. Lounge by the pool, read a magazine, watch a DVD. Resist the urge to sightsee all day with your gal-pals or run yourself ragged doing chores. If possible, put your feet up for a few hours in the afternoon.
-Eat a carbohydrate-packed dinner…but don’t pack in the dinner. Eating an entire box of pasta is going to drag you down, not fuel your engines.
-Have a glass of wine or a beer with dinner if you’re used to drinking and your nerves could use a little calming, but wait until post-race to really celebrate. Not only is alcohol is dehydrating, it can disrupt your (already anxious) sleep.
-Pin your number on your race outfit, and lay it out next to everything you could possibly need on race day: food for the race, sunglasses, fuelbelt, if you’re using one, hat or visor, sunscreen, socks, shoes, ID, emergency money, car keys, shoes to change into, post-race, if you want them, and any other essentials. If necessary, write yourself a note to remind yourself of other things you can’t lay out: “Remember water bottle in the fridge.”
T: Race Day!
-Eat something at least an hour or two before the race. (Hopefully you figured out what works well during your long runs.) If you need some ideas, you want something bland and not too filling, like an English muffin with peanut butter, or yogurt and a banana. Sipping 12-16 ounces of a sports drink is also a good idea, as you’ll need the electrolytes, especially if it’s a hot or humid day.
-Continue to sip water or a sports drink. Better to have to stop at a port-a-potty on the race route than become dehydrated.
-Give yourself plenty of time to get to the race; no need to waste precious energy fretting about parking and finding the starting line.
-When you get to the race, jump in line, stat, for the port-a-potty. Even if you don’t have to go immediately, the line will likely be long enough that by the time you get to the front, you’ll be glad you’re there.
-Line up in a place that is appropriate for your running level. If you’re a new runner, grab a place more towards the middle or back; better to find your space and pass runners as you pick up speed than get plowed over by or go out too fast with the front runners.
-Finally, remember that this is your race and your day. Embrace the challenges running brings and enjoy the ride!
Training for a half-marathon—or any race—gives you a lot of time to listen to the mind-monkeys. The ones that remind you to pick up the dry cleaning; buy eggs, bread, face soap, and 409; call back your sister; and tell yourself you’re slow and not capable of running another step, let alone 13.1 miles. While the mental to-do list won’t do anything more than annoy you like a swarm of mosquitoes, the negative internal monologue can be destructive. Silencing those pesky monkeys can be harder than going the distance. A better alternative? Drowning them out with a mantra.
As you probably know, a mantra is basically a positive sound or phrase that people repeat over and over—and they are not just used by yogis trying to reach bliss. Many elite runners use them. Sports psychologists, as well as other experts, believe the repetition of a word or phrase results in a reduction in stress and an increase in well being. Focusing on saying a mantra gently draws attention away from other thoughts —“my quads are killing me,” “will I ever reach the next mile marker?” or “why am I doing this again??”—that may be otherwise causing you to doubt yourself.
How do you find a mantra that speaks to you?
—Choose something short and simple. In other words, stay away from words that are more than two syllables and sentences more than five or so words long. “I’m an energetic and courageous running machine” might be more of a mouthful than your mind can handle by mile 11.
—Pick something that has meaning to you. “Rock it!” might spur you on, while it makes your running partner think of tripping and falling—or a bad 80’s hair band.
—Have a few mantras in your arsenal, such as one to ease pre-race jitters (“calm and cool, calm and cool”) and another to fire you up in the later miles (“I’m awesome! I’m awesome!”)
—Consider words that give you instructions in addition to motivating you. “Fast feet!” or “Strong arms!” both help you get the job done. A bonus of those two simple phrases? You can say them rhythmically, one word with each footfall or arm swing, to keep your pace up.
—Crib lines from a favorite song, especially an anthem on your racing playlist. Some ideas: “I want more!” from “My Body” by Young the Giant or the Black Eyed Peas’ chant, “Let’s do it, let’s do it!” from “I Gotta Feeling.” (Meanwhile, stay away from lyrics like Maroon 5’s “Harder to Breathe.”)
—Practice it before race day. On a run where you’re not feeling great, trot it out and see if it works for you. If not, head back to the mantra board to pick another.
—Before you head out on race day, remind yourself of your mantra, and how it can get you through the tough times. The starting line, which is always atwitter in excitement and energy, can be a nerve-wracking place. Pull it out while you’re standing still, if need be, and get focused on the task ahead.
In a perfect world, you would always get in your workouts. And jeans that fit you perfectly would cost $40 and Thin Mints would be good for you. Unfortunately, we live in this world, which is filled with late nights at the office, inconvenient colds, delayed flights, and alarms that somehow didn’t get heard. It’s inevitable you’re going to miss a few runs. What do you do when you feel like your training plan is derailed?
Here’s the first thing to know: It’s not a big deal to miss a run or three. You’ll still be able to go the distance, provided you don’t let one skipped run turn into two excuse-filled weeks. When a miss is inevitable, here are a few strategies to minimize the effect:
**When you know you have a hectic week coming up, switch around your training schedule so you can fit in as many runs as possible. While we all love a Saturday morning spent logging the miles with girlfriends, there is no rule saying long runs have to be on a weekend. They can be done on a weekday in the early morning or, taking advantage of long summer days, in the evening. (There is a rule, however, that says your legs deserve recovery after long runs, so the day after, go for a walk or take a rest day.)
**When a chaotic day catches you off-guard and you’re not going to be able to run, re-jigger your schedule on the fly. A good rule is to skip the easiest, shortest run (or workout) for the week.
**A corollary to the skip-the-shortest run rule: The harder workouts should be your priority because those are the ones that matter most on race day.
**If it’s inevitable you’re going to miss a long run, don’t try to make it up the following week. Instead, split the difference: If your previous longest run was 8 miles on week 8, and you missed the 9-miler on week 9, and you’re supposed to go 10 this week, go for 9 instead.
**What if you get sick? Rule of thumb: if you’re fever-free and have symptoms only above the neck—runny nose, sore throat, or headache—you can continue to run. If you’ve got a rattle-like cough or upset stomach, take a pass. If you’re knocked flat for longer than a week, consider being a cheerleader, not a runner, if the race is a month or less away. Otherwise, ease back onto your training plan once you feel better.
**Don’t get too worried about missing a week or so. Get back in the game with a positive attitude. Sometimes the recovery you get during that week propels you to some of your best runs yet.