Fitness, Health, Wellness & Woo Woo

How to Not Run a Half Marathon

You probably read the headline for this post and thought, well, that’s easy; just don’t run it. Sure, that would be one way to avoid running a half marathon: Just don’t do it, to paraphrase the best ad slogan ever. Well, I’m not one to take the easy way out. I have a more difficult system that’s becoming an almost annual tradition, and I think I’m about to embark on it again.

Phoebe runs past Rachel in the park in an episode of "Friends."

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I’m planning to run a half marathon in the fall. I can’t say the name of the race because this half marathon has it in for me. We have a very dysfunctional relationship.

I like to have a big goal out in front of me in at least one area of life, and one of the best ways to do this is to find a race and sign up for it. Giving people money is more motivational than just planning a thing in your head.

This race, though. Every time I’ve signed up for it and started training, I’ve gotten injured and either had to downgrade to the 5K (which would’ve been cheaper to have signed up for in the first place) or not run at all. If I don’t run at all, I’m stuck with a T-shirt that I technically paid for but is a shirt of shame.

My Step-by-Step Plan for How to Not Run a Half Marathon

  • Check date for this year’s Race That Shall Not Be Named.
  • Put in Google calendar, hope race is not able to detect its name in calendar.
  • Download training plan, pin to bulletin board for motivation.
  • Start training, become confident I can complete race.
  • Go to website, register for race and give it $50.
  • Get injured, stop running.
  • Stay injured, lose hope of being able to finish race.
  • Resentfully pick up race packet, shake fist at race. Go home, shove race T-shirt in bottom of drawer until have enough emotional distance to use as training shirt.
  • Fail at emotional distance.
  • Donate shirt.
  • Repeat.

It’s not like I’m overtraining or have some bizarre Phoebe Buffet-ish running style that’s causing injuries. The main problem is not being in my 20s anymore and not being able to time-travel back to the time before my first 10k, when I trained by running 7 miles Every. Single. Night. My knees will not let go of their grudge about that. Also I started having to deal with bursitis in my hip a few years ago. Also apparently I have jangly foot bones, and walking all over Boston in sandals that time was a very bad idea.

I went to physical therapy for my hip and they gave me stretches and exercises that, honestly, didn’t help much. I like the stretches, but I’m not the kind of girl who’s gonna lie around on the floor doing Jane Fonda leg lifts all day. I like to lift weights. They said the hip flex machine didn’t help, but I believe my running form is better when I’m doing that, which helps keep me from aggravating my hip.

It’s All About the Shoes

I’ve also had to accept that I’m past the point of being able to buy whatever running shoes are cute and/or on sale. Fitness articles always say running is great because you don’t need special equipment; just lace up and go, which may be true when you’re 20 or just starting. Now I go to a good running store to get fitted by a pro. I’d love to recommend some shoes here, but everyone’s feet are different and shoe designs change so much every year now that I end up with a different brand every time. The only consistency seems to be that whichever design has the loudest, ugliest colors that least match my running clothes will be the shoe that fits best.

Collagen Powder

The real game changer for me has been collagen. I started putting collagen powder in my coffee every morning and almost immediately my hip and knee pain disappeared. I had pretty much given up running and now I’m able to run regularly. I use Ancient Nutrition Multi Collagen Protein Powder, which you can get in a canister or individual packets that are great for travel.

Training With a Plan

Of course, I’m not running 7 miles a night anymore, either. Now I use the Jeff Galloway method, which involves timed run-walk intervals and a plan to gradually work up to a half or marathon distance so you don’t get injured. Weirdly, I am not slower with the walk intervals, though I was always pretty slow to begin with. Galloway groups meet up for weekly runs in many cities and that’s a lot of fun, though they like to get up earlier than I do on Saturdays. You can find more info at www.jeffgalloway.com.

So, yeah, I think I’m going to give it another try. Right now I’m training for training, then I’ll start a 12-week training plan in a couple of months. Shhh, don’t tell The Race That Shall Not Be Named. I’m going to sneak up on it.

My Paleo Fail-eo and Other Diet Misadventures

Bookshelf filled with different diet cookbooks

My cookbook shelf suffers from multiple personality disorder.

Here’s a picture of the cookbook shelf in my kitchen. You may notice that it suffers from multiple personality disorder. At any given time, I could be on the South Beach Diet, paleo, Whole30, vegan, vegetarian, whatever Gwyneth Paltrow is, then make gumbo with Emeril. I am nothing if not adaptable.

With the diets, I think it’s the lure of the fresh start. Clean out the fridge, buy shiny new healthy things and have someone else give you all the rules so you don’t have to make decisions. What’s not to like? Unfortunately, fresh starts wear off after a few days and then you’re stuck with withdrawals from whichever of your favorite things you’re not allowed to have and you start questioning your life decisions.

My husband and I started doing the South Beach Diet years ago. This involves two weeks of a strict low-carb plan followed by a more moderate period where you can have whole grains. My husband would drop 900 pounds the first week, partly because he is a better person than I am and never cheats, and partly because he is a man and life is not fair. Meanwhile, I’d struggle through the entire two weeks of Phase 1 and lose 4 pounds.

I still have all the South Beach cookbooks because the dinner recipes are tasty and simple and can easily be adapted to other clean eating plans. I don’t do the diet anymore because Phase 1 includes some high-sodium items and dairy, both of which I find it best to avoid. Okay, I find it best to avoid dairy but mostly don’t do that.

Let’s just get the vegetarian thing out of the way. I just can’t. I even failed at Meatless Mondays, though there are two recipes that we did really enjoy when we were trying that: portobello mushroom pizzas (also great for low-carbing) and these Spiralized Sweet Potato and Black Bean Quesadillas from when I got the Inspiralizer.

The Whole30 is a miraculous, life-changing eating plan in which you lose a million pounds, cure all your health problems and get glowing skin and shiny hair, and all you have to do is give up basically everything you like for an entire month. Just kidding. You can have coffee. Black. The food is actually really good; there are plenty of cookbooks (I like “The Whole30 Fast and Easy”) and recipes online, and if you’re already eating clean you’ll find it’s not a drastic change; you just have to avoid sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes and dairy. I know. It is kind of a lot. But by eliminating foods that cause inflammation and other issues, you can learn which things really affect you so you can avoid them. I’ve done a Whole30 and a Whole … um, like 19. Sometimes I’ll do a Whole week. That’s not approved by the Whole30 people, but the world is a little safer for us all if I can have some chardonnay.

Paleo is basically Whole30 but with more wiggle room. (“Paleo for Beginners” is a great book to start with if you’re interested.) For example, one day I got an email from a Paleo website with links to recipes. I clicked on one and among the ingredients were Greek yogurt and feta cheese and I was all “whaaa?” and went straight over to Google to see what magical hocus pocus would make these items not dairy. I landed on a discussion board where I learned there is a thing called “primal” where some  dairy is allowed. And then a whole bunch of people are just not following the rules.

I may be one of those people, or maybe I’m more of a cherry picker of diets. All of the cookbooks have good, healthy recipes in them, so as long as you’re cooking with clean, whole-food ingredients as much as possible, it’s all good. As for gumbo with Emeril, well that’s just fun.

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