Post-Marathon Stuff Body/Mind – The Shu Box

Running + Body Stuff

(Please ignore this section if discussion of weight or body composition changes is triggering to you!!)

Some of you have been curious about body composition changes during the marathon training cycle.

During my Bayshore Marathon training, I peaked at 70 mpw (2 at 70 miles exactly, and multiple weeks in the 60s). I know some people struggle to keep weight on while running higher mileage; I have never been one of those people. I have instead experienced annoying weight gain while ramping up to higher mileage training before and whined about it as recently as a year ago.

(In retrospect, I think that July whine was brought on mainly by a birth control switch — I have since stopped all OCPs as it turned out that for me they were causing frequent and frustrating migraines.)

Last fall, I took Meghann Featherstun’s group nutrition training (I was in the fall marathon group as I was planning to run JAX at the time). My major takeaways from this course were:

  • Fuel your speedwork and long runs really well – I took a gel every 30 minutes on my long runs + speedwork.
  • Some form of carbs before every run – I usually use graham crackers with my coffee in the morning, just 2 sheets or 4 squares – and I think it helps! PS: the Trader Joe’s graham crackers are my favorite and they are BACK and this time I will buy 45 boxes so I can have them all year round. Apparently they are a ‘summer item’ . . .
  • Replace water + electrolytes aggressively. LMNT is my favorite.
  • Eat a lot of protein! I tried to make sure every meal had a substantial protein component and sometimes snacks too. I didn’t shy away from protein shakes/bars as I had in the past (easiest supplemental sources for me — Core Power = 26g, Perfect Bars = 17g, Rise Bars = 18g, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt)

Obviously there was more, but those were my personal takeaways. I did not intend to stop strength training during my marathon build but I effectively stopped by March. Oops. I would not recommend this but it is what happened.

In the end, I would say ended up gaining just a little bit of weight (like 2 lb – really not much) and definitely losing muscle mass/definition/strength in the upper body in particular. The next two pictures are me around the end of my training and just a bit after.

Post Marathon Stuff BodyMind The Shu
after a hot run in May
1718121706 73 Post Marathon Stuff BodyMind The Shu
this weekend when I actually attempted to wear an ‘outfit’

Oh, and I mentioned feeling puffy during the carb load. I didn’t have a scale with me which was probably good so I don’t have objective data, but I am pretty sure I was up weight-wise a bit more for my actual race, from water/glycogen AND the fact that I had been PMSing (of course).

Two things were interesting that I want to note:

  • You can get substantially faster without losing any weight or even dropping body fat. I know this should be obvious but whenever someone writes about making progress with race times or whatever I wonder — was there a substantial body comp change that went with these improvements? In my case, there truly was not.
  • My prior strength training did not seem that impressive but it must have been doing something because I can definitely tell the difference having NOT done it!! I mostly did Peloton strength workouts of 20-30 min duration, previously using weights up to 25 lb (lower body) and usually 10-17 lb for upper body. This wasn’t elaborate and didn’t involve some fancy progression but was in fact enough to mostly maintain strength. I know that now because I have LOST said strength and muscle. I absolutely cannot lift those weights now, and feel like I lack the modest muscle definition I had before. (But hey, at least I know how I can get it back!)

Would I do anything differently the next time around? Diet-wise, I’m not sure. I think I could perhaps do even better with protein. Would being a bit lighter help me go faster? Maybe, but it would probably be disruptive to the rest of life and could set me up for injury, so I don’t want to make that a focus. I do hope to NOT give up strength training the way I did! Even if it’s just 2 days/week for 20-30 min I think it does help maintain muscle mass which is so important long term. Not getting any younger over here . . .

Feeling / Energy / Etc

So that’s the physical piece – what about the mental? I had a few people ask about whether I have any post-race letdown. I would say . . . not really. I was super happy with how the race went overall AND I was excited to take a break from heavy training. I will say I do wonder whether I could have attacked the last several miles of the race with a bit more intensity (did I mentally give up a bit bc I realized I could ease up and still almost exactly make my A goal? Maybe . . . this podcast ep about the mind/body connection really made me wonder).

I have however been more tired. My runs have been slower, and I can’t tell if it’s entirely heat related or just my body not being fully 100% after the race effort. I’m able to ramp things up for short spurts (like 1 min repeats or strides) but I just don’t feel super energetic and I feel like I’ve needed more sleep — even more than I needed during then training itself. During the peak weeks of training I kind of felt like I had adrenaline getting me through the super early wakeups and long workouts and now that is not present. Which is probably a good thing as I think ebbs and flows are probably healthy!

On the other hand, I’ve had more excitement and energy around NON running related things (I FINALLY STARTED DECLUTTERING) which is nice.

Strength + Speed

So as noted, I want to spend the next few months running less (though still a decent amount), lifting more, and emphasizing speed/power more than endurance. I am also trying to just CHILL OUT about how slow my paces are in the heat. Maybe I will adapt more and maybe I won’t but either way running faster will feel easier in November.

In the Weeds

Sarah Hart-Unger

mother of 3 // MD // south floridian // ESFJ // upholder.
into: planners, great food, running, reading, writing, mornings, podcasting, and coffee.

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