Hendrick's gin!

It seemed like a good idea at the time...

Now that I’ve been in the swing of exercising for past six weeks or so, I have started to look at each individual workout as just a few quick frames in one of those movie training montages. Slowly but surely, I’m feeling better and more confident from week to week, and my numbers are inching up to prove it!

But as with any process like this, there are always going to be hiccups along the way. Over the weekend, I added a couple of pretty ugly frames to my personal training montage.

Up until now, I haven’t paid too much attention to my eating habits prior to my workouts. Most of my gym time happens in the evening, after I’ve been at work all day. When I’m at work, I tend to snack a little bit in the afternoon, and generally drink a lot of water. As a result, my energy level on the elliptical or while running has been relatively consistent… so consistent, in fact, that I have apparently been taking it for granted!

After having such a good outing around the reservoir last Saturday, I was really looking forward to this weekend’s run. I had everything planned out: take Brooks to work in the morning, come home, lace up my fancy new shoes with the Nike+ tracking chip, and work really hard to do better than last week’s pace.

What I didn’t plan for was taking care of myself the night before. Dinner on Friday night consisted of wine and cheese at the Grand Opening party of Brooks’ coffee shop, chased down later by oysters, a couple forkfuls of mac and cheese, and a Carthusian Gimlet (Hendrick’s, Chartreuse Green, honey-lime juice — better than it sounds!).

The next morning, unwilling to compromise or listen to body, I pushed myself out through my gin hangover and onto the  running trail. Dehydrated and on an empty stomach, I was barely able to complete the first 2.5 km before slowing down to walk. I just plain didn’t have the energy to keep a jogging pace. After walking for several minutes, I did make it around the loop a second time, but I did it knowing that I had fallen short of my goal for the week.

What went wrong? Basically, I failed to observe a couple simple rules that I’ve been following since I started doing this:

Eat a little something before you exercise. It doesn’t have to be a lot — in fact, depending on how much time you have, it shouldn’t be a lot. On days when I know I’m going to be working out, I try to eat something small before I leave work: a granola bar, or a piece of fruit, or a cup of yogurt.

Leave some time to digest the little something. By eating before I leave work, I give myself my commute time (about an hour) for my body to process it. The rule of thumb that I’ve heard and read is to wait 30 minutes to an hour after a snack, and two or as many as three hours for a full meal.

Don’t forget to drink water. Obviously not too much right before a run, but I try to keep myself hydrated with small amounts of water — actual water, not anything sugary or chemical-y — at reasonable intervals throughout the day. The fact that I didn’t drink at least a little water on Saturday morning was completely fail.

On Saturday, I gave myself a pretty firm reminder that I’m not invincible. So, on Sunday, before heading to the gym, I decided to do it right. I went a little later in the day (around noon — maybe early morning exercise isn’t for me), and about an hour before I left the house, I ate maybe four handfuls of baby carrots and a cup of yogurt. I was able to hit a full hour on the elliptical (only my third time doing that so far), with energy to spare.

The difference between my two experiences on Saturday and Sunday reminded me a lot of Goofus and Gallant, a feature from the “Highlights for Children” magazine that we used to get when we were kids. Goofus and Gallant are basically mirror images of each other. Gallant would be good at teaching kids how to be respectful and well-adjusted if he weren’t such a sucker.

Goofus is detached, inscrutable, manipulative. Gallant relates to others directly, intuitively, empathetically.

And, to drive this post home, here are a couple of PSAs from Mr. Skullhead, circa 1994.

How about you all, 2FNS people? Do you have a good strategy for keeping the right energy level before and during a workout? A favorite pre-workout snack to share?