It’s been exactly four months since my first InsideTracker test. After reviewing my recommendations (over and over again) and beginning to make some changes, I’ve experienced some incredible results. Within the first month of my test, I dropped a full minute from my 5k time, and hit my goal of sub 18, two weeks early. I PR’d in 3 5k’s in November (:14, :30 and :16) to bring my time down to a 17:42.
Despite adding 15 more miles per week to bring my weekly average right around 45 miles per week, my recovery, sleep and overall energy levels have improved. I’m sleeping better than I ever have since I started running, and long runs are not as taxing as they used to be. A large part of that is training adaptation, as I’m sure my coach will be quick to point out, but the difference between October and November’s long runs was dramatically different.
What’s different? I’ve focused on improving my cortisol (stress level), muscle health, Vitamin D, magnesium and eating more fish (leading to more protein) and other fatty foods, as well as my “personalized Focus Foods,” specifically chia and avocado.
First, cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone that has an impact on quite a few other markers. One thing that InsideTracker, has made me very aware of is the impact of sleep. As a result, I’ve also added in daily analysis via Heart Rate Variability monitoring (how recovered/rested you are – high is good). I followed a few of the recommendations related to lowering cortisol from a nutrition standpoint, as well as making certain I get a bare minimum of 7 hours per night. I’ve been aiming for 7.5-8 as much as possible, and have moved a few runs each week to the evening so that I can sleep a few minutes later. I’ve also been drinking less, which I’m sure helps everything. Instead of going out 2 nights a week, it’s been 1 or more of a calmer night in with friends. Longer long runs also made this a requirement anyways, but it’s cool to see the impact on liver health as a result.
HRV also helped me pick up on the impact that standing for an hour or two after a long run (or any hard run) has on recovery, in that the data shows that I’ve recovered faster when I don’t sit around after 2+ hours running. That’s a challenge in and of itself, but worth it in the long run.
Running commutes (when possible earlier in the fall) also added an extra hour to my day on recovery run days, so that is very helpful when it comes to getting extra sleep.
Bone and Muscle health: I started supplementing with Vitamin D, as it’s much harder to absorb (naturally) in the winter especially in New England. I went with 5000IU, which ended up being too much. I’ll scale back on that to bring it into the optimized zone, and will stop probably by May.
InsideTracker recommended I start weight training to help with muscle health, which I started doing 2x a week. With a 7 day running program, at first it was difficult figuring out which days were best to add a double to, but after speaking with Jenny Hadfield from Runners World, I learned that most of the elites strength train in the evening of days that they have speed work in the morning.
One of my problem areas still seems to be magnesium. Despite it being in the optimized zone, after speaking with a few dietitians, I’d like to see it higher. At the advice of one of them, I began supplementing 2-3x daily, which didn’t have an impact on changing the level. I’ve also been making it a point to eat dark chocolate every day, which impacts both magnesium and cortisol. And because it’s awesome. (lesson: chocolate is good for you, because #science).
I spoke with our sport scientist about this, and he said it’s likely due to a high training load and my body’s ability to use/process magnesium with the amount of training. As much as I’m opposed to supplementation and prefer a real, whole foods approach, I already eat plenty of magnesium rich foods. I’ll continue with the magnesium, and focus on incorporating more magnesium rich foods as well and see if I’m able to reduce the amount, while still increasing the level. My sleep quality has definitely improved, and I’m sure it’s related despite the number not changing.
I was happy to see cholesterol levels drop, despite continuing to eat 3-4 eggs (yolk included) just about every day. I’ve been eating less red meat, and a whole lot more fish. Canned wild salmon ($3 for 2-3 servings) or canned wild herring ($3, one serving) has been my go to source of protein for lunch. More fiber has been helping too I’m sure.
InsideTracker has been a huge wake up call to show a path to success, and that’s been the feedback I’ve heard from many of our users as well. Overall I’m thrilled with the progress, and have some more work to do with a few of the other markers (Ultimate includes 30 total biomarkers).
Non fitness related impact: I’ve felt more energy throughout the day at work (full disclosure, I do work for InsideTracker so we’re a pretty lively bunch to begin with!) and haven’t experienced the same fatigue or mental fog that I often occasionally get in the afternoon. I’m waking up feeling much more refreshed too.
Training update: The insane winter we’re having has been causing some problems with normal training routines, but we’ve been adapting, whether that’s a tempo run on a treadmill, or 20 miles/170+ laps on a 200m track (I NEVER want to do that again) or just layering up and running through it.
I have just over 3 weeks to go until my next marathon and first BQ attempt. While I’d love to get the BQ sooner rather than later, I’m not sure if my fitness is at a point where I can run 26.2 miles at a sub 7 pace and hit 3:03 or faster. I did a long run a few weeks ago that covered 16 miles at a 7:16 pace, and then finished 21 at a 7:30ish pace. This was a group run, and I went out faster than planned and expected to get dropped in the first 3 miles, but 2 hours later I found myself closing the final mile of the group part at around 6:45/mile. Eighteen months ago that was nearly my all out mile pace.
It ended up being somewhat of a time trial, as I completed 21 at what would have been just over a 3:15 marathon pace if I had gone a little further. I wasn’t intending for this to be a race pace long run, but rather a long slow distance due to the poor road conditions and the fact that most of the run was on the rolling hills of Newton including Heartbreak Hill.
My long runs are in segments of a longer easy piece, just over a mile at a fast pace, and then 3 minutes at an even faster pace. I’ve done this 4x for most of my long runs lately, but last week’s was 5x. Out of nowhere (coach says it’s the training obviously) I found myself (just barely) sub 6:00 for the last 3 minutes right around mile 19. This is the second time that’s happened (goal pace for 3:00 minutes is 5:50-5:59). I’ve been noticing that lately I have a kick/extra gear at the end of long runs that I’ve never felt before.
A bit of foolishness (not following instructions from coach) led to a tweaked hamstring in the November Project Sunrise 6k (turned 5 mile tempo), so I’m hoping to heal up real fast and arrive at the starting line a bit rested (a recent long run was turned into a 2 hour bike) and recovered. Who knows what will happen at Shamrock Marathon, but I’m going to work to make it a big PR.