How we ADAPT to running & to LIFE!!

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).

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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:

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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.

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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!

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Summer break IS HERE!!!!

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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?

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24 comments

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Wanted to say thank you for the great content you provide us readers. Your effort and work is appreciated! :)

Elliptical/cross training day at gym and then I got home and ran 1 mile with my dog for his morning jaunt! We are getting very good at not tripping each other :)

I hope you and the family have a great evening.

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Thanks Amanda! You are so so nice! HAHAHAHA Beretta still tries to trip me… teach me your ways:) I hope your evening is great too Amanda!

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I completely agree. We adapt with running as we need too. We adapt with life as we need too. Sometimes things we never thought imaginable happen because we do adapt.

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Just read your post about your burn out and you are doing the right thing! Such a good post and I always forget that swimming was your #1 before running!

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I ran today and a man, who I believe is a retired running coach, told me I was running too fast. I was but it was planned. I was doing some easy fartleks. I just smiled and said I was fine, thank you. Too funny. If I was planning on running my whole run at that pace it would definitely have been too fast. But I need to adapt and it won’t happen by going steady paced!

My run felt tough but I did it.

Kids here go to school until the end of June. (they also start in September).

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HAHA sometimes all you can do is just smile and tell someone thank you:) Especially when they are trying to coach you and they have never met you;) WAY TO GO NINA on your run today! You did it… and you adapted:)

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i really loved this post. i thought about this when i ran my first marathon last fall, because i had gone through an emotionally taxing year and didn’t think i would even make it to the start. but guess what? i did, because emotionally and physically we ADAPT!

i am running a half this weekend and i am hoping to break 1:34. because of my body’s amazing ability to adapt….i thought i would never be a fast runner! but i think i’m doing okay!

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Love what you shared Mallory… you went out and rocked your first marathon even after a crazy year?!? You are amazing! I am SO excited for your half… you are going to rock it and I can’t read about how amazing you do! GO MALLORY!!!

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It’s pretty amazing how my body has shifted…in either direction. Some day it flows so smoothly and my body works like a machine. Other days, not so much . It’s so important to notice these certain triggers and how I can better adjust for my goals ahead! Awesome post, as always.

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Some days I feel a little frustrated that I am training so so hard to be a mid-pack runner. And then I remember that my body is busy fighting cystic fibrosis every day of its life. And keeping me alive and breathing. How amazing is that! Running has shown me over the years that I am a lot stronger than I give myself credit for… That has helped me with many aspects of my life: being a mom, a wife, a professional. And as you mention, rest and recovery are not signs of weakness, they are an integral part of getting stronger! Thanks so much for an amazing post!

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My run today was about 19 miles; honestly, it’s crazy just that my body has adapted to being able to run that far at all. One year ago, that would have been tough for me; two years ago, I had never even run double-digit miles before. It really is amazing how we can get used to such an honestly insane activity.

I’ve been out of school (college) for almost two weeks, but the public elementary schools here still have almost another month! Knox and Brooke have it easy!

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Love this post , Janae!!! So true. I studied the human body in my doctorate program and it is so incredible. A friend of mine is studying now and we always ‘geek out’ with excitement over how amazing our bodies are!

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Perfect post, so many things in life can parallel running but especially stress. My 23 year old daughter had a double lung transplant 2 weeks ago. It is amazing just to see her walk and some day soon she will run. She is my hero, she has 2 small children and her husband left but she works hard everyday so she can be an active mom. I think about her on my runs and speed work. Life and stress does change you and we really have a choice, bitter or better. Both are exhausting but better is eventually easier and worth all of the work. I share your blog with her because you amaze me with how you have done with divorce and sharing Brooke. Thank you for sharing, I’m sure it is hard some times but you really are helping others.
Kind regards,
Tammie

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Tammie, I truly hope that your daughter’s recovery goes well! Must have been so hard on all of you. Sending good vibes your way.

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Tammie, you and your daughter are absolutely amazing. I am so happy that everything went well with your daughter’s double lung transplant and that she is walking again. Wow. Thank you so much for sharing your story and please keep me updated with how you and your daughter are doing. You guys are in my thoughts and prayers!

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Thank you, HRG and commenters. I needed this today!

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Hope you are doing okay Lee! Let me know if you need anything at all! xoxox

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I love to tell people that when I first started running (and after LONG) breaks I couldn’t run from lamp post to lamp post because it’s true! Now I’ve done triathlons and half marathons so they can too! I still can’t imagine what it would take to do a full though. Loved all the science in this post!

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Ugh, no running, have a bad cold. But hoping to feel better later and go for a quick run while my kiddo is at softball practice. We’ll see. You guys did great on characters with only 10 minutes prep ! School ends next Tuesday here and we just had a field trip yesterday, lunch on a beach towel in the lawn today, fun stuff for a week. We always do something special when school gets out, a fun day with just her and I. Not sure what our plan in yet. She is choosing a splash park, but the weather isn’t quite warm enough according to adults.

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Such an interesting post, it’s made me look back over my time running and it really is amazing to think about the improvement, I wonder just how we manage it!

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I love how you get philosophic on running and since becoming a regular reader about two years ago, I’ve learned a lot from you about running and life. There have been many instances over the years where I’ve called upon your words to get me through a tough training run or race. Thank you.

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Great post! Needed to hear it :) :)

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I read your post right after completing a track workout, which I haven’t done in a LOONG time. I haven’t trained hard core for anything since my freshman year in college when I ran on the cross country team, but I’ve been staying in shape and active. So when I ran 400 repeats with times that took me a whole season of cross country to get me to 3 years ago I was amazed at what my body was capable of! It makes me very excited to see the progress I can make with consistent training!

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Nothing amazes me more than watching my body adapt to being pregnant, post-partum and breast-feeding, and then back again after weaning a year after that. I’m on my fourth baby growing expedition now, and feeling my body slow down and bloat up throws me for a mental loop sometimes. It’s overwhelming to think of the hours and sweat I’ll need to put in to build back up after I’ve had this baby and healed. But when I push the negative aside, I always come back to the fact that I do adapt, I do get stronger, and after each baby I fall more in love with running and lifting and taking care of myself. In fact, before this baby #4 I was in the greatest shape of my life. Our bodies and brains are truly miraculous!

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