Isn’t it beyond amazing how our body can adapt to running? How does it go from not being able to climb the steep hill up the road one week to being able to do it just a few weeks later? How does our race pace drop 20 seconds per mile over the course of a year of training? How do our tempo runs or long runs increase in mileage?
Sometimes this is what I think about during a REALLY rough speed workout or long run, I think about how my body is going to simply adapt to the stress if I stick to it and that is what keeps me going. I think about how incredible it is that as we run our capillary density increases. Our lactate tolerance increases (it can handle more waste) and our blood is able to better bring oxygen to the muscles. I think about how our glycogen storage increases with more training. Our mitochondrial size and number goes UP too. With time, running increases the amount of air that we breath in and out each time that we take a breath. Our heart becomes stronger through running and it is able to pump more blood! These are all some of the ways that our bodies are able to handle more stress for longer and faster! Some of us adapt quickly and some adapt more slowly (due to genetics and some lifestyle factors) but we all ADAPT.
We change, we can handle more and we get stronger (even if that means we lay down on the sidewalk for a while after the hard runs because we are so tired).
I came across this little thing about adaptation that I wrote a few years ago for something other than my blog and I wanted to share it here too because I LOVE seeing how much our running and life has in common:
I love to compare life to running, so just bear with me for a few minutes.
The other day as I was running on the treadmill, I started to smile during my 4th mile repeat. I wasn’t smiling because I was running on a treadmill in a stuffy gym or because the mile repeats felt easy. I was smiling because I was thankful for the ability we have to adapt both in our running and in our lives.
Our bodies are incredible. We so often are down on our bodies because we think they are just not good enough or we wish they were different. But let’s start thinking about all of the amazing things they can do. For example, they adapt well to our running.
When you first started running, wasn’t it hard to run for just a few minutes? It sure was for me.
The first time you did speed work, didn’t it feel like your lungs were going to explode? Mine did.
The first time you ran up the big hill in your neighborhood, didn’t you have to stop and walk a few times to get up it? Yep, more than a few times for me.
And now look at what you are doing. You are running miles and miles in a row, climbing hills—it is still hard, but you are doing it- and getting faster the more that you train and work for it.
That is something that I love about our bodies.
I love watching how my body adapts to the workload and the stress of training. At the beginning of each training cycle for an upcoming marathon, the slightest amount of speedwork leaves me pretty exhausted. The long runs nearly kill me. Ten weeks into training for the marathon and the workouts have gotten much more intense and longer, but my body has adapted to being able to complete them. Just 10 weeks before that and I probably would have flown off the treadmill at the same speeds that I am able to do once my body has adapted a bit. So don’t stress when you first start a new training plan and a few weeks down the road the workouts scare you a bit.
With proper training your body will adapt. Your heart will become more efficient (and it gets bigger too with endurance training), your muscles will get stronger and more capillaries are produced in order to deliver oxygen to those working muscles. Your VO2Max (your maximum oxygen consumption) also increases, which is pretty helpful when wanting to bust out some hard workouts! You will continue to adapt to a higher level of running and speed.
The same thing happens in life. It is quite amazing.
We all have stress and hard things happen to us that we worry we won’t be able to handle. We feel out of shape when a new challenge comes into our lives that we feel we won’t be able to cope with. We feel emotional, as if it is just too much and that we are going to need a heck of a lot of ‘walking breaks.’ It takes a lot of work, we probably cry a lot but we get stronger and stronger and adapt to our new normals. We keep moving forward. After my divorce I thought that the emotional workload was going to be way too tough. I didn’t feel prepared or strong enough to get through it. Almost two years later and I am doing more than okay now, but it took a lot of work. I made it through it. I adapted to being a single mom. I adapted to the heartache that accompanies a divorce and it all made me stronger.
We work at our struggles, we come up with new solutions and we don’t give up. Our insides change a bit with the added stress. Maybe our heart gets little bigger, just like it does with running, by going through the tough life stuff too.
In both running and life we can only handle so much stress. If we want to adapt to the extra workload we must take time to recover. If we don’t, we start to break down. So make sure you are aiding your body and mind’s ability to adapt by taking the day off when you need to. Taking care of yourself and relaxing.
The kids had their last day of school today! They were supposed to dress up like characters and so this is what we came up with. We remembered about the character day 10 minutes before leaving the house!
Summer break IS HERE!!!!
How has your body adapted to running? What changes have you noticed lately in your body adapting?!
What was your run today!?!?
When does school end where YOU ARE?