Doesn’t time fly! It’s been nearly six months now since I started to overhaul my training and diet thanks to all that I was learning about female physiology from Dr Stacy Sims - and what a six months it has been! I’ve learned so much more about training and eating – not just towards my goals, but as a menopausal runner too. After years of feeling like I was on a downward curve, I finally feel I’m on the up again. Having started running seriously in my mid-thirties, I thought I’d reached my peak not long after that, but now I am not so sure… it may be still to come.
So, of the changes I talked about in my last post, where am I now?
- I’m still running less, a lot less. Until Covid 19 locked us all down, I was running two or three times a week with clients, all short and very easy, with one easy long run by myself. I’d also built in a really hard run each week, usually in the form of a 10-minute easy warm-up, followed by 10 short but pretty flat-out reps on rough grass. Each rep would take about a minute, and then I’d walk back before doing it again. It was tough, (and very cold and wet at times) but I could see real progress, building up from 6 to 12 reps, and improving the pace I could maintain too
- I’ve kept up with the strength work – in fact, I’ve built it up even more. Having got into the routine of doing a run-specific session per week and a more general HIIT class, I built on them by adding a short run or powerwalk straight after each one. As I was training for a very hilly ultra, and doing both sessions in the gym, I decided to overcome my dislike of the treadmill and use it for a hard, hilly interval session. That was really tough, but the logic behind it (teaching my leg muscles to run when they were already fatigued) worked well. Now that the gym is closed and my garden is my workout place, I’m carrying the principle on. After a HIIT/strength session I’m now heading straight out for a mile on the road to see how fast I can go
- Training-wise, I've also made sure that all of my days are very hard (with strength work and some kind of hard effort running), or very easy (my long run, Pilates or rest). there's nothing in-between. My recovery is so much better for it
- Eating breakfast is still the first thing I do in the morning – in fact it would feel very strange not to do that now. I’ve kept what I eat varied, with porridge saved for long run days, peanut butter and banana on toast before my strength and speed sessions, and eggs when I feel my body needs some help with recovery
- Protein remains the first thing I think about when planning my food. It’s become such a focus for my diet. I’m trying hard to eat a real variety, and have astounded my husband by going from a peanut butter hater to almost an addict
- I’ve also made some changes to the carbohydrates I eat – not so much what I eat (although I have given up pasta as it gives me sleepless nights) but when I eat them. I’ve learned to eat carbs in the mornings and/or before training, but I’m avoiding them in the evenings whenever possible. This is so that my body has them when it needs them for training and recovery, rather than all of the time
- Instead of having snacks before and after pretty much every run, I’ve also started to split my meals around training. If I’m running in the evening, for example, I might eat part of my lunch at lunchtime and then save the rest for late afternoon. That way I’m getting enough to fuel my runs without eating too much.
And have the changes that I’d started to notice after just a few weeks continued? In a nutshell, yes!
- My clothes have got looser and looser and most are hanging off me now! I’ve probably dropped two dress sizes already and am now wearing a pair of shorts that fitted me 17 years ago! I very rarely weigh myself (as I'm much more interested in body shape and composition) but decided to give it a go the other day and was amazed to find that I’m not far off the weight I was at my peak of running fitness in 2005!
- I am so much stronger. I look stronger and I feel stronger in both everyday life and when I’m running too. My muscles don’t tire anywhere near as quickly as they used to
- I continue to feel so much better in myself. I’m sleeping better (and have no more pre-bedtime hot flushes) and my brain fog has stayed away too. My energy levels are good - most of the time I feel as if I’m in my 30s again!
- Best of all, my running is getting faster again. In the last 4 weeks alone I’ve taken 30 seconds off my one-mile time, and prior to lockdown my parkrun age gradings were better those I achieved at my peak in 2005. Best of all, I feel I’ve still got a lot more in me too!
2020 may not be turning out to be quite the year I had planned and hoped for race-wise, but I’m seeing that as a blessing in disguise. I’ve got more time to focus on my training, nutrition, and refining the changes I’ve already made. With no ultra to train for, and limited access to the trails that I love, improving my speed over shorter distances seems a logical way to go, and for once, I’m quite excited about that.