In April thousands of runners will take on the Boston Marathon many for the first time. Fiteeza is focused on a special newbie marathoner Bridget Nelson, our social media guru. Each week check back here for updates on her training progress and find how she is sleeping, what she is eating and her strategy for pacing herself through Hopkinton and attacking Heartbreak Hill.
Whether you're a Fitness Pro who trains endurance athletes or you are considering training to compete like one, Fiteeza is highlighting Bridget's journey to give you an insider's view of her experience. Give us a shout out if there is a specific question you want us to ask Bridget or if you have any sage advice.
How many days per week do you run during your training? Does that represent an increase for you?
Single digits are left in my training for Boston Marathon - only 9 to go! My current training plan from my coach has me running 3 days a week: I do a speed track session, treadmill class with hills and sprints culminating in my Saturday Long run. Thankfully before I was given the opportunity to run the marathon I was always doing 2 running days a week so I just had to add in the long run, plus some extra miles!
What time of day do you run? Do you ever alter your schedule due to other commitments?
I prefer to run in the morning - it sets my day up and I feel accomplished. Knowing that training is vital to have a successful race, I’ve already been adjusting my schedule to prioritize my training days from running to cross training. I find that if I don’t put working out first, I might not get it done and I don’t want to sabotage myself. So far, I’ve been fortunate in that my schedule of training doesn’t overlap with anything, except sleeping in on the weekend since by 9am on Saturday i’m out for my long run!
On those early runs, what do you eat before heading out?
Early in the year, I started making an effort to reduce eating added sugars. Since I started training I only let myself have added sugars once a week and I’ve noticed a difference. The day before my long run, I eat simple, clean meals and it makes a huge difference on the long runs. My go-to breakfast right now is a smoothie: frozen mango, banana, 2 cups raw kale, coconut water, and a scoop of organic whey collagen powder. I immediately start feeling energized, full, and ready to take on the day!
Are you training alone? If not, are any of your training runs done alone?
Nearly every bit of my training has been training in groups. I take cross training classes and run with running groups. My first 10 mile training run I did by myself. The, I joined up with the running community called The Heartbreakers. They do weekly track workouts and long runs on Saturdays (when my long runs are planned). It’s made a huge difference in my running. I am genuinely looking forward to the long runs where I have a group around me because we encourage one another.
Which training style do you prefer, alone or with a partner? When you run alone do you listen to music?
I don’t know if I have a favorite, alone vs a group. I do know that when my miles increase above 15 a group, or even just one person around me, makes all the difference. Running in a group helps me feed off others energy and we all keep pushing each other to go a tiny bit further.
I’ve been trying to get used to running sans music because on race day I just want to soak it all in. For my past half-marathons, I always completed my longer training runs alone. Alone and with loud, sing along music!
When running with music, I always like a mix of pop, classic rock and even oldies. For a few races, I planned my playlist according to where I would be on the course. This was to ensure that when I was hitting my wall songs would play that I just had to rock out to. I’ll admit those songs most recently have been ‘Can’t Stop the Feeling’ by JT and ‘X Gone Give it to you’. One is a happy feel good song and the other just makes me feel like a badass when singing the lyrics. Music is a great motivator for me when I’m alone on a run. For this marathon training I’m letting my body tell me what it wants whether that’s music or not.
What does your diet look like now compared to your non-training diet? Do you eat a pre/post run snack? Do you drink water or sports beverages during runs?
Food is fuel. It’s essential to my training. I keep to eating clean about 80% of the time. I think my diet is more consistent while training because I can immediately feel when I eat unhealthy or inconsistent meals. If I have a lot of sugar or processed food I can feel it for sure. This past long run, I had all new foods and not what I usually consume before a run and I didn't feel as strong as I did the past few long runs.
My meals have become fairly basic: I have the same kale/mango smoothie for breakfast (frozen mango, kale, banana, coconut water, whey protein). My lunches and dinners are usually a combination of baked or grilled chicken, roasted sweet potatoes and veggies.
My pre/post run snacks are very similar: Pre run I have been eating the same granola and banana with almond milk. It's delicious and keeps me feeling full and satisfied. During my longer runs, I pack homemade banana chips and salt chews to eat during the run to keep me fueled. I usually just stick to water because of the snacks I have during the run so I don't drink sports beverages.
Post run, I focus heavily on drinking water and replacing electrolytes. I usually have a few more salt chews. Then within the hour of running I have been eating a mix of carbs, protein, and fats plus some guac - aka enchiladas at a local Mexican place since it hits the spot and fills me up!
Are you worried that you won’t be able to maintain your training schedule with work, life, family commitments? How do you manage disruptions to your training schedule? Have you missed any training sessions or experienced a low-energy training session due to other commitments keeping you up late or not eating right?
Training is tough, we’re in the last part of the training program. Distractions are also tough and everywhere it seems. I have been focusing on prioritizing my training and planning ahead as much as I can.
This week was a tough week, my usual schedule was entirely thrown off. I was traveling Sunday through Monday then winter storm Skylar hit Boston Tuesday which meant that my usual workouts (XT and track) were cancelled. I finally got back on the treadmill in class but wow my legs felt weak and it took a while to get my breathing under control.
I’m thankful that I’ve been consistent with my routine for the last 8 weeks. That makes it easier to jump back into it. The hectic week did put stress on my sleeping habits and I can feel it. I am actively taking steps to get back to my norm by drinking plenty of water and continually moving, walking or standing up at my desk to increase my blood flow.
I am also focusing more on shutting down earlier in the evenings by writing in my running journal before bed, rather than scrolling through instagram. I find I sleep better when I do that.
How are you sleeping? Are you experiencing any muscle cramps at night or during training runs? Do you need more/less sleep than when you’re not in training? Have you experienced any other physical symptoms during your training?
Last week was certainly a week! I've been very fortunate to not have muscle cramps during my runs but I am preventing that by ensuring I am completely hydrated, foam rolling and stretching everyday. I've been sleeping well, but I definitely feel more tired than usual if I don't get 8-9 hours of sleep each night. I am in need of more sleep than ever with my miles about to hit an all time high. My muscles need to recover and rest more.
I am now experiencing a different kind of fatigue and I have moments where the last thing I want to do is foam roll or eat the fruit instead of the donut. I have felt in a bit of a rut. I'm learnging that it's ok if I have an off day because I am working toward a huge goal. We all want immediate gratification for our hard work. This training is teaching me that everyday I add to the bank of my training and on race day I'll cash it out!
What are some tips and techniques that aid you in avoiding injury? Are you still finding time to stretch and cross train as part of that? Do you use ice? We know you foam roll, are you finding more muscle knots? How do you fit all of that into a busy work day?
Stretching is vital and I try to do a little everyday. Thankfully before and after my tough workouts I have stretching as the final part! In the last week I have noticed that my legs are sore for longer now which is not fun. I used to be able to get up and walk easily the day after a long run. The last two runs were tough so my legs took a beating. As soon as I finish my long runs though I am immediately rolling out my legs while hydrating and that has helped so much to keep the blood flowing.
I haven’t used ice yet, the days leading up to my long run I avoid foods that are inflammatory and try to get a tumeric shot (from a local juicer) to help keep my muscles relaxed.
For avoiding injury, I am focusing on what my body is telling me. In the first few weeks of training my shins flared up and my arch tendons on my foot ached. But I sat and focused on what could cause it. I took some steps to address the problem, like switching to shoes that provided a smidge more support under the ball of my foot. and with rest, compression and elevation I had zero pain after.
I will also do a little stretching right when I get up everyday, sometimes I’m still sitting on my bed when I do it, ha! Then do some stretching again before bed. Not for very long just a few minutes and it does help keep me injury free.
Are you feeling more mentally prepared than when you started? Has your training helped with the mental preparedness and toughness? How have your coaches and running partners helped you?
I am definitely feeling mentally prepared. Running parts of the race course every week since the end of January has truly helped me learn how to attack the different challenges of it. I’ve had some bad runs during mytraining and with every bad run I learn something about how I can plan better for it on race day. My longest long run was definitely NOT a great one. I had some awful stomach issues (that’s all I’ll mention) so the last 5 miles was stop and go which took me 90 minutes rather than the usual under 60 to do the same distance over the hills. Dealing with this toughened me up because I still managed to run full out the final half mile to conquer that distance.
I’ve been running with a group every Saturday on the marathon course. I’ve made some great friends and we’ve all coordinated our start times so we’ll plan to run together and not alone on the course. It has made a HUGE difference. We hold each other accountable with texts checking in on training throughout the week. Then when we’re on the run itself we all push each other to keep going or just enjoy the run if we aren’t pushing our pace. Having a coach has been essential for me because it brought me more accountability and I could rely on someone to check in on me and adjust my plan every week based on what I did or how I was feeling.
Post Race Wrap up:
It's official, that was the wettest Boston Marathon in history. No other race will ever compare to that day! The weather, the volunteers, the spectators who stood out in the rain and cheered me along every mile were amazing individuals. This whole process would have felt like an impossible task without a training plan and a coach to work with. I was fortunate to have my coach from Mystryde checking in with me each week as well as the Heartbreaker Running team to do track and long runs with. They both helped me feel stronger through every week of training and every run.
The final week leading up to the marathon, I focused on staying hydrated, sleeping 9-10 hours every night and stretching a ton. I rarely tracked calories or macros but would write in my running journal everything I ate to keep an eye on whether any foods upset my system.
I experienced a little bit of nerves Sunday morning when it hit me hard what I was about to do. A burst of tears erupted, but that I was just excited. I woke up on Monday with a smile on my face and even when it started hailing that smile didn't leave my face. The horrendous weather couldn't bring me down and I had zero doubts about finishing this race.
I would have loved to run this race with an epic time but I went into it just wanting to finish strong and enjoy running Boston! I achieved just that. While I'm still a bit sore, glutes and hammys aren't fully recovered yet, I am already realizing that I would run another marathon.
My advice to my future self would be to enjoy the process and keep smiling because less than 1% of the population are marathoners. It's a gift! I think next time I'll be working on my speed. Knowing I can run the distance now, next time my goal will be to get a little faster. I already planning to run two smaller races in May, a 5 miler and a half-marathon. I am hoping to get a PR in both...which would be awesome.