October 24, 2013

Get More Energy by Giving More Energy

How has it been for me giving up caffeine this month? Not so good. I chose this goal in large part because I was hoping it would encourage me to sleep more, but I’ve recently found that even when I arrange a free morning where I can sleep as late as I want, the most I can get myself to sleep is 7.5 hours. I determined a few years ago on a solo vacation that 8 hours a night is the perfect amount of sleep for me (although of course maybe that’s changed now)… but I just have not quite been getting that lately.

MySleepBot graph
Being slightly under 8 hours all the time means I’m slightly tired all the time.

Despite not getting enough sleep, this month I’ve been really good about avoiding all caffeinated beverages. Or at least avoiding those beverages that I know are caffeinated – I can’t really guarantee that the decaf peach mango iced tea I get at Eatzi’s is, in fact, decaf, but I’m taking my chances. However, I’ve basically just swapped coffee for tea and hot cocoa – especially since it’s been super cold in Dallas the last two weeks. (Note that by “super cold” I mean “temps in the 50s”… apparently I have spent so much time in Texas that I consider 50s to be “why didn’t I pack my down coat” weather!) Yesterday I pretty much chugged hot cocoa nonstop – at first being virtuous and having organic unsweetened cocoa powder with perhaps a small sprinkling of added sugar, but then ending up in meetings far from my desk where I started sucking down the regular Nestle packets that are free on every floor. ALL THE COCOA PLEASE.

(Note: I do realize that cocoa has minimal amounts of caffeine in it, but since it’s minimal, I consider it to be a basically uncaffeinated beverage. However, I should probably lay off the all-cocoa-all-the-time thing if I want to maintain that claim.)

Despite that cocoa binge, I was still yawning like crazy all day yesterday – and when I thought about it, I realized that I’ve been yawning a lot more than usual lately anyway. There are many days where I find myself wishing I could just go take a mid-afternoon nap (and on weekends at home, I totally do!), but clearly that doesn’t really work on weekdays at the office. The obvious solution is for me to work on getting more sleep, but as previously mentioned, my body doesn’t seem to want to let me sleep more.

Although I’ve been tired, I’ve been working out like crazy this week in preparation for the New York City Marathon next Sunday, November 3rd. I haven’t been posting very speedy marathon times as of late, but I’d really like to do well at New York City Marathon, and I’m hoping that it’s a matter of me reminding myself how to push myself to go fast. Most of the marathon I run are for fun, not for speed, and I definitely don’t finish them quite as spent as most people do! I’d like to think that I have it in me to go faster if I just go for it – so that means I need to get my mental focus on track, and probably also do some short speedwork to remind my legs what it’s like to really push.

If some (last-minute) training is good, more is better, right? (Um, no – totally wrong, and I’m well aware of how stupid I’m being.) But under the guise of that philosophy, I’ve been trying to kill it at the gym in the last few weeks – going back to classes like the grueling Tread Fitness (where “now do 25 burpees” is your rest break from uphill sprints – that class is no joke) and really hitting hard on the weight lifting and cardio. One result has been that I’ve seen that I’m faster/stronger than I give myself credit for being. While I typically run around a 9 minute mile regardless of the distance/terrain, at Tread I’ve done such workouts as running 2 minutes at a 7:30 pace (and that pace felt super easy/relaxed), followed by 1 minute at a 6:45 pace, followed by 1 minute at a 6:00 pace (with no rest breaks in between all of that). Running fast for half a mile isn’t really a great indicator of what my marathon time should be, but I know the endurance, at least, is there. Again, I think a lot of my problem is just that I don’t race marathons; I leisurely run them to see the sights and make friends.

Caveat: while I say that I’d like to run New York City “fast”, I have no real delusions of PRing, and my primary goal is to have fun. It’s my 100th marathon, and my favorite big marathon at that, so I just can’t wait to soak it all in. I want this year’s New York City Marathon to be a 26.2 mile celebration, and I think that celebration is a lot more important to me than my finish time – especially if going hard means that I’d be miserable throughout.

So speaking of being miserable, the other result of my last-minute all-out training? Complete burnout, as evidenced by how I tried to ramp down with a Barre Bee Fit class yesterday and discovered that my muscles were so weak/tired that I had to take a million breaks throughout the class. I’ve been trying to do more two-a-day workouts lately, but that failure of a barre class was a big wake up call that perhaps it was time to go a wee bit easier on myself. Instead of hitting the gym again last night, I instead opted for a fun pizza dinner with friends – and I was so glad that I did.

I was all set to completely skip the gym this morning and just sleep, but then another Dallas friend chimed into a Twitter conversation I had been having earlier about potentially hitting the 5:30am Flywheel Texas class. When Jenna said that she wanted to come, I decided to forget the rest break and just go for it too! I set my alarm for 4:30am (ugh) and fell asleep pretty much as soon as my head touched the pillow. I reasoned that I could always take the class super easy and just pedal along at my own speed, and that it might even be good for my legs to do some cycling rather than the pure weight lifting /pounding from running I’ve been treating them to lately.

I’ll admit that when I got to class, I was exhausted, and it became evident right from the first song that my legs were spent and not going to net me a very high score on the torqboard. But the instructor, Thomas, was an awesome new instructor that I hadn’t had before, and he was phenomenal – literally dancing in his seat as he took us through the songs. By the end of the ride, while my numbers still weren’t what I wanted them to be, I was having a blast and feeling totally great.

When class ended, it was only 6:15am – so I now had tons of time to kill before needing to be at the office at 8am. (This is why I don’t usually go to the 5:30am classes – it only takes me about 30 minutes to go from bike to shower to office, so that’s an extra 75 minutes of time that I’d rather spend sleeping.) To fill the time today, I decided to hang out at the studio and double up with the 6:30am ride, taught by Mark (who’s one of my favorite instructors). Again, I reasoned that I could always take it easy on this ride, and I ended up having a fabulous time despite my sluggish legs. Thomas stayed to take Mark’s class too, and he took the bike next to me so we could chat before the class got going. Then when we were actually riding and I got really into a sprint, Thomas started cheering me on while he was riding! (Once a great instructor, always a great instructor.) It was so cool to go through two back-to-back classes like that, and a lot more doable that I had expected. Honestly, the time flew by so fast that the whole second ride was a blur! So great.

Furthermore, all the adrenaline from my double ride pepped me up throughout the day like nothing else has this month. Apparently working hard and sweating like crazy (I was pretty disgusting by the end of the second class) is a good way to replenish your energy stores – who knew?

If you want to get more energy, try giving more energy.
Photo credit: J Segers

But I guess I actually did know that from running. When you’re on a long hill and starting to feel so tired you can’t do it anymore, sometimes the best thing to do is actually speed up and “surge” to the top of the hill – it gets the blood flowing to those tired muscles and magically feels easier than it did to keep running at the same slow pace. I’ve also noticed that when I’m running a marathon and I’m getting tired, I get pumped up by cheering for other people – it magically gives me energy of my own. From a productivity standpoint, it also reminded me of how you get more done if you’re busy than if there isn’t too much going on. When faced with a challenge, you/your body will rise to the occasion – and I was so glad that I had kind of accidentally challenged myself this morning.

But now – I think it is time for a real break. I’m headed up to Niagara Falls for my 99th marathon, and I couldn’t be more excited. I’ve run Niagara Falls twice before and loved it both times (you get to start on the American side and literally run through customs to the Canadian side!), and this year, I was invited by the race organization to be their featured speaker at the pasta dinner. I’m looking forward to spending tomorrow and Saturday just taking it easy and catching up with my mom (who’s actually driving out there for the occasion!), and then Sunday will be my last (beautiful) run before New York City Marathon the following weekend. Yippee!


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