At the end of 2012, I decided to make some huge changes to my physical health. While I've always considered myself healthy, I knew I could feel even better, so I made 2 major changes for 2013 in terms of diet (I now eat Paleo almost exclusively) and exercise. An active person for the most part, my love-hate relationship with running has gone on too long.
For years, I have run in spurts. I'd sign up for a race, train (usually not even close to enough), run, take some time off (long enough to lose all of my fitness), and repeat. The result? I never saw any significant improvements in my running speed because I was always starting from square one; I had no consistency. The other problem with this method? No maintenance; I was always building mileage. That meant that the runs were always hard because I was pushing my body to run further or faster than before. Plus my dietary habits were causing spikes in my blood sugar that would result in brutal lows during my runs, causing me to actually fear running. No more.
Starting in January I changed the way I was running. I ran for fitness, for fun, and for stress relief, not with the goal of a specific event or race. I set goals for weekly and monthly mileage, and for number of runs per week, and I made sure I hit them week after week after week. My goals were ambitious, but not so much that they were hard to attain. January's goals were to run 75km, and to be able to run 5k without walk breaks. February's goal was 100k. March was also 100k, but with a focus on speed during the week, and on the long slow distance run on the weekend. April's goal was 125k, and by then I knew I was ready to run a 10k race and beat my previous best time. I also registered for a half-marathon May 5th with the hope of setting a PR there too.
Paleo eating has been massively helpful too. I diet of low glycemic index foods, protein at every meal, and a ratio of 35/40/25 carbs/fat/protein, keeps my blood glucose steady all day, including during runs. And with a focus on what I put in my body and when, I have drastically decreased recovery time and eliminated my need to "carb load" before long runs. My energy level is stable, by appetite is strong, and my stress level has never been lower.
Overall, these changes, albeit small, have totally transformed the way I think about diet and exercise, especially about running. For the first time ever, I wake up in the morning excited about running. It's gone from being work to being entertainment, and I celebrate and enjoy every little improvement. Finally, I have found a way to run that I know I can stick with!!