Our Start-to-Finish Guide to Marathon Training

People Running a Marathon

So you want to run a marathon …

How exciting! How scary.

While looking back at the NMA Radio archives a few weeks ago, Matt and I noticed a glaring oversight: marathon training for beginners.

We’ve covered general running advice, what to eat before a race, and even trail running, but somehow we skipped over one of the most sought after topics for runners.

Training for your first marathon will be a thrilling experience, filled with highs, lows, and lessons. But if you’ve never taken on such a distance, just thinking about the challenge can feel overwhelming. Fear not, we’ve got you covered.

In today’s post, we finally tackle the topic, and address all the basics of marathon training … from choosing your race to crossing the finish-line.

Here’s what we talk about in this episode:

  • Choosing the right marathon for you
  • What to look for in a training plan
  • Should you set a time goal?
  • Eating for strength, lasting energy, and recovery
  • Why a simple approach to pre-race fuel is a smarter approach
  • Our tricks to staying on pace

Click the button below to listen now:

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How to Balance Family and Training (and Guarantee Their Support)

Couple marathon running for exercise and fitness training

This post is written by Susan Lacke.

“Hey, honey. I’m going to disappear for about 15 hours each week to exercise. When I come back, I’m going to be really tired, so I’ll nap for at least a few hours.

“I’ll be hungry a lot, and you know when I’m hungry, I’m not very pleasant to be around. Basically, what I’m telling you is that you’re on your own for the next six months. But I’ll have a medal to show for it!”

Can you imagine uttering those words to your spouse?

Probably not. But when you sign up for a long race, that’s exactly what you’re saying.

Training for any event takes a lot of time, dedication and energy.

But training for a long race, like a marathon, ultramarathon, or Ironman triathlon, takes even more. It’s an incredibly selfish endeavor — you disappear for hours to train while your spouse takes care of the kids, and for what? A medal with your name engraved on it.

Where’s the trophy for the family?

It might seem like you’ll be the one doing all the heavy lifting when training for a race, but the ones you love will carry a burden, too.

I’ve experienced this firsthand: my husband has poked me awake during more than one date night at the movies, my brother has asked if I really need to disappear for a run during our family vacations, and I’ve missed several gatherings with friends in order to get my scheduled training in.

At first, when they sighed and said it was “no big deal,” I took that at face value.

Eventually, I learned it was a big freakin’ deal. My friends and family wanted to support me, but I wasn’t giving them anything in return.

There’s a line between “support” and “resentment,” and the side your loved ones fall on will depend largely on the choices you make.

So how do you guarantee those choices are good ones? Here are 8 steps to point you in the right direction …

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The (Third) Big Q&A Episode

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You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers … or attempt to have answers, anyway.

After last week’s massive podcast extravaganza with Sid Garza-Hillman, Matt and I decide cool things down a bit with our third installment of the Big Q&A Episode. If you’re a new listener, you may also want to check out with the first and second.

This time we tackle running injuries, the ketogenic diet, a vegan pregnancy, ultramarathon nutrition, and several other great topics.

Here’s what we talk about in this episode:

  • Running and plant-based eating while pregnant
  • Should knee pain keep you from ever running again?
  • Matt’s take on the CRON-O-Meter (BTW, Doug has no take)
  • Fueling an ultramarathon on sugars
  • The health benefits of sprouted grains

Click the button below to listen now:

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The Secret to Healthy, Stress Free Eating

Somewhere in between Ann Arbor and Omaha, I learned the secret that would change the way I eat and plan my meals.

I don’t remember exactly where I was, because the whole book tour was something of a blur — 40 cities in 50 days to promote No Meat Athlete when it was published in 2013.

It was a different hotel every night. Sometimes with a fridge, sometimes not. No kitchens. No dishes. No blenders.

Basically, nothing that resembled the comfortable food routine I had at home. And as you can imagine, vegan restaurants aren’t exactly plentiful in places like Wisconsin and Nebraska (though Omaha actually surprised me).

So I learned an important rule for driving across the country as a vegan: when you find a good grocery store, stock up. On foods that you can eat on the go, with no prep.

Very quickly, I learned what foods worked best in the car to keep me from resorting to junk:

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If Your ‘Healthy’ Diet Stresses You Out, Can You Still Call It Healthy?

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“No matter how healthily you’re eating, if it’s causing you stress to do so, you’re not eating healthily.”

That’s the most valuable lesson I’ve learned from my friend, author, and (vegan) certified nutritionist, Sid Garza-Hillman. And it’s one that has changed the way I eat.

So how much stress does your diet cause you? See if any of these sound familiar:

“I struggle to get enough variety and I’m bored with my diet.”

“When I get home late from work, I usually just end up microwaving something from the freezer or getting takeout.”

“I have trouble finding time to plan ahead, and end up wasting a lot of food and eating junk.”

“A lot of times I just end up eating snacks as meals, even though I know this isn’t good.”

“I’m worried I don’t get the nutrition I need as a plant-based athlete.”

If I had a piece of tofu for every time I’ve heard one of these concerns from a No Meat Athlete reader or listener … well, I’d have a lot of tofu.

And you know what they all are, right?

Stress.

What’s funny is that with all the progress plant-based diets have made in the past decade, these are the exact same issues I used to get emails about when I first started this blog seven years ago (and back then, I was dealing with the same issues myself!).

There’s a disconnect here: we’re all eating better, or at least we’re trying to. And despite some confusion around controversial foods, we know more than ever about what’s good and what’s bad, with the trend clearly moving in the direction of whole foods.

So why are so many people still having these same issues? Why is there still so much stress around eating a healthy, whole-food plant-based diet?

There’s not just one answer, but I can give you three big ones:

  1. Misconceptions about what’s actually healthy (or necessary).
  2. Overly complicated approaches to nutrition — yep, I’m calling out calorie-counting and even macronutrient ratios here.
  3. My favorite topic of all … habits. In this case, bad ones.

On that third point: rather than having a plan in place — a plan where the default is healthy food, built into the very structure your day — most people’s food choices vary wildly. And they vary according to factors that are more or less random … factors like what time they got out of work, whether they happen to have leftovers in the fridge, and let’s face it, what they happen to be craving.

It’s time to bust out of the rut, clear up the misconceptions, and simplify the way we eat.

So who did I call in? You guessed it: Sid Garza-Hillman, the guy who got me thinking this way in the first place. For an epic, 90-minute conversation around this very topic, where we break down the big three problems above to help you remove the stress from your diet … so it can be as healthy as it ought to be.

But I know 90 minutes is a lot, so to help you fit it in to your day, I’ve broken the recording into three, bite-size chunks (see what I did there?), starting with Part 1 today.

Click the play button below to listen now:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Or:

  • Click the links below to download the MP3 file (you may need to right-click and “save link as”):
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5 Powerful Breathing Techniques To Soothe Pre-Race Anxiety

Tired after jogging/exercising.

This post is written by Jessica Blanchard of StopFeelingCrappy.com

Despite your best intentions, it’s happening again.

Race day arrives, and you’re freaking out.

You’ve spent months training for this big goal race. You’ve put in the miles. You’ve kept a training log. And you’ve even put more emphasis on eating healthier plant-based meals.

Then — out of nowhere — while waiting at the starting line, this nagging sense of doubt creeps in. “Am I prepared? Am I hydrated? Am I going to crash after the first few miles?”

Your heart starts to pound. You feel the knot of anxiety right between your ribs, and it makes you struggle to breathe without sucking in the air.

You’re panicking.

You know you’re prepared, so why is this happening?

It’s simple: you’re scared, and your body has turned on its fight-or-flight response. The downside of stress is elevated heart rate, suppressed immunity, anxiety, and shallow breath — all things that can sabotage your race.

You need to soothe your stress and turn on your relaxation response while holding onto your edge. And you have a remarkably simple method right under (or in) your nose.

Your breath.

By strategically manipulating your breath, you can use your lungs and heart to send feedback to your brain, convincing it that things are peaceful and calm. It’s easier than you think.

How to Soothe Pre-Race Anxiety with Your Breath

Use the following five techniques to soothe your race day anxiety so that you won’t miss a step:

1. Shut your mouth.

Breathing through your nose quells your body’s fight-or-flight response. The flow of your breath over your sinus cavities produces nitric oxide, related to laughing gas, which relaxes your body.

You also engage the diaphragm muscle because your lungs have to work a little harder to pull air through the nose. This deepens your breath.

More carbon dioxide is released, and more oxygen is brought to your cells.

Breathing through your nose gives you more control of your breath. My teacher used to say, “When breath control is correct, mind control is possible.”

Shut your mouth, take control of your breath, and you’ll quell your anxious mind.

2. Breathe like Darth Vader.

Ujjayi breath — a technique in which you make a soft aspirant sound when you breathe — is practiced in Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga because it helps to lengthen the breathing cycle, creating a relaxed mental state.

Try it now: while you inhale and exhale with your mouth closed, gently spread the glottis at the back of your throat, so that when the the air passes over your vocal cords, it makes a soft aspirant sound. (Here’s a video demo.)

Some call it the sound of the sea. Some call it Darth Vader breathing. Some may say this one is better practiced in the car than at the crowded starting line.

Breathing with sound also calms our minds and brings us to a meditative state because it drowns anxiety-producing thoughts that grab our attention.

Focus on the sound of your breath, and imagine your anxiety crashing and disappearing like waves gently washing onto a shore.

3. Exhale (for a long time).

Inhale for a count of four, exhale for a count of eight. As you exhale, gently pull your abdominal muscles back to help the process. Repeat this at least ten times. If your feel strained, shorten your exhale and inhale a bit.

Think of the exhalation as a long steady wave that moves through your body. Then when you inhale, focus on filling your chest like a balloon, breathing through your nose.

Exhaling for longer than you inhale creates a vacuum effect and allows a better inhalation.

When we exhale for a longer time than we inhale, our hearts slow down just a bit.

This is a powerful way to calm your heart when it starts to race before you’ve taken your first stride.

4. Sync your breath with your stride.

What if you get nervous in the middle of the race?

No worries. Kidnap your attention away from your anxiety-producing thoughts, and bring it to your breath.

Count your exhale against your stride. Now do the same for your inhale. Exhaling for three strides, inhaling for three strides. If four feels better, use four counts.

This technique brings your focus to your breath and your pace. The result is deeper breath and razor-sharp focus.

A word of caution: don’t try to breathe too deeply by forcing long breaths. See what feels right for your pace.

And if you need to breathe through your mouth for a while, do so; just keep the focus on your stride and breath.

Before you realize it, your anxiety will evaporate.

5. Name that thought.

So you’re counting your breath with your stride, but then these thoughts smack you out of nowhere: you’re not fast enough, you’re losing steam, you didn’t prepare enough, you should have trained harder.

You keep breathing, but they keep coming.

Don’t panic. And don’t suppress these thoughts.

Instead, let the thought float in, then name it “negative gibberish.” Or “untrue,” or, “obsessing about the future,” or “wallowing in the past.”

Then come back to your breath.

Studies have shown that suppressing thoughts only makes them come back stronger. So let the thought in, but don’t believe or buy it.

If you name your thoughts, you won’t suppress them. When you acknowledge repetitive worries by labeling them, they tend to dissipate like clouds in a gentle breeze.

Now you’re ready to conquer your anxiety

Competing is tough, even if you know deep down winning isn’t your goal. But you shouldn’t let a bit of anxiety ruin months of training.

And with the right strategies you can soothe anxiety before it takes control. To make this easy, I’ve put together a free audio guide walking you through all five techniques.

Just imagine how Zen you’ll feel when you run those miles without worrying about things that you can’t change at that moment anyway.

So next time you feel that knot rising in your chest, close your mouth. Breathe like Darth Vader through your nose.

And before you know it, you’ll be in your zone.

So, ready to tackle your next race?

About the Author: Jessica Blanchard, Registered Dietitian, longtime Ayurvedic practitioner, and yoga teacher is on a mission to improve your health with super simple wellness strategies that work. At StopFeelingCrappy.com, she blends Western science with Eastern wisdom to bring you a unique approach to health and happiness. Ready to crush your Race Day Anxiety? Download your free cheat sheet and audio guide here.

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How to Maintain Your Healthy Habits When You’re Traveling

Fruit stall in the Italian city market

We’ve all be there … traveling in a new city, thrown off from our regular routines, and struggling to maintain a healthy habit.

How on Earth can I keep a daily meditation practice in a crowded hotel room?

Should I even bother running when I’m off my training?

Isn’t it impossible to eat healthy food on the road?

While on a recent vacation to Florida, Matt’s family found themselves asking questions just like these. Hopping from place to place, their healthy eating habits were put to the test.

In today’s episode, Matt shares a few of the lessons he put in place during that recent trip, and we discuss when it’s acceptable to let your habits adapt.

Here’s what we talk about in this episode:

  • A Grapple? Seriously?
  • The effects of routine change on your habits
  • Planning for the challenges
  • Why something is better than nothing
  • How to embrace the new experiences

Click the button below to listen now:

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3 Valuable Lessons Learned from 4 Years with No Meat Athlete

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Criss-cross applesauce everyone, it’s story time!

It’s the summer of 2010, and I’m a new vegetarian training for my second marathon. Obsessed with protein and iron levels, I stumble upon a (then) small oasis in a sea of meat-eaters … a blog called No Meat Athlete.

Fast forward a few months and I’m walking through my first DC VegFest. After being physically pushed by my girlfriend (now wife), I awkwardly approach a guy in a running carrot shirt and ask if he’s Matt Frazier. Here, picture this:

Me: “Umm, hello. Are you, uhh, Matt Frazier?”

Matt: “Yeah!”

Me: “The Matt Frazier?!”

Erin (Matt’s wife): *eye-roll*

Matt’s confirmation and the conversation that follows is as awkward as my approach, making it clear he’s not quite used to the fanfare he’s known to receive today (picture Justin Beiber level attention, and divide that by roughly 1,000,000).

But it’s that clumsy encounter that leads me to help organize the first No Meat Athlete Marathon Training Group in 2011, and ultimately alter the direction my life takes. Since 2011, I’ve played varying roles in this company, growing right along with the brand.

I’ve learned a lot in those four years. Practical information like:

  • How to use Photoshop and edit a podcast,
  • The difference between vegan and plant-based,
  • Why I should never use phrases like “the meat of the story is…” in an email newsletter,
  • And that Matt is only human like the rest of us.

But beyond that, my work with No Meat Athlete and the people I’ve gotten to know through it, have taught me a lot about healthy living, acceptance, community, and fear.

Allow me to explain …

What I’ve Learned from No Meat Athlete

Over the past several years, I’ve worn many hats in this company. Hats that have required me to spend time in the NMA email inbox each morning, interact with readers and listeners of the podcast throughout the day, and assist in interviewing some of the biggest names in health and fitness. I’m not going to lie, it has been a lot of fun.

And starting this week I’ll have the privilege of writing more frequently on this blog, and working directly with readers to shape the content — but more on that later.

As I transition into a new role at No Meat Athlete, I find myself reflecting back on my time here, and focusing in on three major lessons which I’d like to share with you today.

Let’s start with the first:

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