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Half Marathon Training on a Paleo Diet: Part 4

In my previous post I talked about how I adapted my training programme to become a little more ‘primal’ by reducing my running sessions and increasing my strength training. I also talked about how I fueled my workouts, what gear I was using, my foot care routine, and my overall emotional journey. This fortnight I’ll be focusing mainly upon my physical journey, and the impact that my autoimmune disease has been having upon it all. I’ll also be talking about an amazing merino wool sports bra that I have been putting to the test from Icebreaker. Don’t forget that there’s also the opportunity to bag 20% off my SKINS compression kit as well as the chance to win one yourself – just click here for further details.

I’ll be running the Leeds Half Marathon on Sunday, May 8th, in order to raise money for Mind– the mental health charity. If you’d like to donate just text GOSA60 £1 (or an amount of your choice) to 70070, or alternatively click here to donate online. All donations will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

The Training

As mentioned in my previous posts I have (up until now) rather loosely been following the BUPA Intermediate Half Marathon Programme, but since I started to take a more primal stance on my training the only part I have kept on board is the distance of my long runs. My cross training elements have been largely calisthenics and kettlebell based, which suits me just fine. That was up until the middle of this week wherein I suddenly had a savage bout of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) – and it has not budged since.

I am talking about that really crippling pain that stops you from extending your legs and makes you walk looking like you’ve mildly pooped yourself… except that this has been happening every single day, since Thursday morning.

Now, rather than write out a training table for the past fortnight I’ll just give you a quick summary of what I’ve done:

  • Tues 29th March – 4.6 mile run in 50:34, which is a 10:59 (min/mi) pace and the fastest pace of my training so far.
  • Weds 30th March –  6.25 miles in  1:17:06, which is a 12:20 (min/mi) pace and the slowest pace of my training so far.
  • Mon 4th April – 40 minutes kettlebells followed by 32:37 steady run and sprint work combo over 2.49 miles.
  • Weds 6th April – Heavy calisthenics session.
  • In addition to the above, there have been some light walks and calisthenics sessions in between.

My calisthenics has suffered quite a lot since I started running, it was something that I was doing daily and quite intensively so my reps have dropped drastically. A few months ago I was busting out 6 pull ups, now I’m doing a measly 2. I’m hoping that once my body is less tired and stressed this will become easier and I will gain back my strength.

I deliberately concentrated on having more rest days and increasing my sleep this past fortnight, ditching the 3am wake ups and opting for a more modest 5am. I have also been going to bed an hour later to have more unwinding time, at around 10pm. But the truth is that I’ve still been feeling rather tired and emotionally drained. The prospect of going on a 10 mile run with severe DOMS has been more than rather unappealing to say the least, so I have been foam rolling like a mother, going for a few light walks, and I have decided that it would be wiser to miss my long run for this week as it is highly unlikely that it will be even remotely beneficial. Sometimes you just have to sit back and admit defeat.

But why is this all happening?

My theory – my autoimmune disease is making a little comeback. For those of you who don’t know, I suffer from Henoch–Schönlein purpura (HSP) a rare autoimmune disease that inflames your blood vessels and affects your skin and internal organs, typically resulting in a rash similar to meningitis, and joint and abdominal pain. As a kid I spent a large part of my childhood in and out of hospital, with swelling so severe in my legs that I was unable to walk and was in a wheelchair. Since changing to a Paleo diet I no longer get the skin rash, and internal bleeding and swelling is minimal but still when it does occur, is mighty uncomfortable. The cold weather is what usually results in my pain returning, and this has made running hard to keep up with – I spend around the first 30 minutes of my run suffering from severe joint pain until my body warms up enough, and it’s pretty exhausting.

So, rewind to this Monday when I did a heavy 40 minute kettlebell session, and a lot of deadlifts, when suddenly my dog Luna starts howling downstairs because she expects me to take her for a run. Now, I really wasn’t feeling it but the noise was unbearable and I felt like taking her out was better than dropping a 20kg kettlebell on my head, so I grabbed her lead and went. I did a steady 10 minute run but I really couldn’t be bothered to leg it for any length of time and so decided to do 20 minutes of sprint work, up a small hilly mound. I started out doing 1 minute sprints on some straights, then jogged for a minute and repeated that 6 or 7 times before running as fast as I could up this small hill and walking back down. I must have repeated this at least 10 times. Then I jogged back home. I felt fine for the rest of that night, quite energised even, but then come the following morning I literally could not walk – and not out of soreness but stiffness. That evening I went for my 6 mile long run and managed a rather shocking 6.25 miles in 1:17:06, which is a 12:20 (min/mi) pace and the slowest that I have ran in my entire training. The next day DOMS hit me HARD. For the rest of the week it hasn’t even eased off in the slightest.

The verdict – my body can’t repair itself because it’s too busy well, um… fighting itself – because that’s what autoimmune illnesses do. This was also the reason that I was forced to quit CrossFit not so long ago, one session was all that I could manage per week and I couldn’t condone doing 4 sessions for a months worth of fees. I’m hoping when the weather warms up I can revisit.

The plan for the rest of the weekend is to do another strength training session, have a protein shake to aid in muscle repair, and re-evaluate my training programme for next week. I’m hoping that I can do one easy run and a long run of 10 miles for this coming week, followed by a 12 mile run the following week.

The Gear


Icebreaker Sprite Racerback Bra, RRP £45.00

I first stumbled across Icebreaker when I worked for an outdoors shop, about 4 years ago. Icebreaker are renowned for their high quality merino wool base layers, and are pretty much the best set of base layers I’ve ever seen. I’ve owned mine for 4 years and they have stuck by me through thick and thin, I’ve run in them through the bitterly cold winter months, slept in them, gone camping in them, and even tried to pull them over a pregnant belly. They will literally last you a lifetime.

The Sprite Racerback Bra is a soft and supportive bra made with merino wool jersey corespun fabric, featuring Icebreaker’s improved cup shaping and an open back design that improves freedom of movement. The corespun fabric uses nylon fibers wrapped in merino wool, for added strength and durability but this also makes it highly breathable. The wool is super soft on your skin and it has a power mesh lining to improve moisture management and comfort. There’s also no side-seam which helps to prevent underarm chafing. This is literally the comfiest bra I’ve ever worn and I’m looking to buy another in their more vibrant colours for summer (I opted for a graphite grey) as well as their Siren Bra for a more feminine look. You can pick up hot pants from the same range too for a matching little number.

I know that merino wool sounds a tad odd for underwear, but it naturally helps to regulate your temperature, keeping you cool in the summer, and warm in the winter. It’s super absorbent and breathable as it absorbs and releases water vapour to help prevent overheating and that awful stickiness that is synonymous with heavy exercise. Merino wool is naturally anti-bacterial too and you can literally wear it for days (or even a week) without having to wash it once. You’re also naturally protected from the sun’s harmful rays as merino wool is UV protective. Doesn’t get more primal than that hey?!

But how did it fare with running? In my opinion it’s not supportive enough for running, I felt a hell of a lot of bounce and just wasn’t comfortable with that, but it is fantastic for any sort of weight training, yoga, studio work, or even hiking. It has brilliant wicking properties, is absorbent, doesn’t chafe at all, and it looks fab under your workout gear –  but also casual wear too. It’s certainly a layering staple for any wardrobe.

Stay tuned for a full review coming in the near future – and for the opportunity to win yourself the very same bra!

The Icebreaker Sprite Racerback Bra is available in an array of vibrant colours, direct from Icebreaker at £45.00.

The Fuel

Although my training has severely diminished over the past couple of weeks my appetite has increased 10 fold. This is also because I’ve had my period this past week and I tend to bleed incredibly heavy for the first 3 days, so I eat a tablespoon of blackstrap molasses daily and plenty of leafy greens to counteract this and top up my iron as I don’t eat meat. I’ve been trying my hardest to not overeat but in all honesty I have caved in the evenings. I was eating really sensibly and started to see myself lean out, however I now feel as though I’ve inherited two tree trunks for legs – this is partly due to swelling in my muscles, or at least that’s what I’m trying to tell myself!

I’ve been eating half a sweet potato at lunch, and almost a full one in the evenings but have started to reduce my carb intake over the past couple of days as I’m not in need of them. I’ll be carb loading from Sunday evening again in order to prepare my body for my 10 mile run on Wednesday. Other than that I am going to try to reduce the amount of creme fraiche and frozen berries that I eat in the evening, and I will definitely by taking a protein shake to help with repair of my muscles post workout as I think my body is in need of some extra help. I’ve got Vivo Life’s new protein powder PERFORM to try out which is a raw plant protein with bio-fermented BCAA’s and turmeric extract to help to optimise recovery and digestive enzymes for faster absorption. These guys are my buds and I’ve watched them grow into making their own products so I can’t wait to see what all of their hard work tastes like!

I’ve also started to supplement with zinc now that my training intensity is increasing, and I take PurePharma’s 3 – Complete Pack which contains their Ultra Pure Fish Oil, Essential Mineral Complex (ZMA), and Vitamin D Formula which is used by athletes worldwide. I find that it’s handy just having a sachet to hand with everything that you need to take, all in one go.

The Pampering

Pfffft… pampering? More like absolute torture this past couple of weeks. My pampering has largely consisted of A LOT of foam rolling, and the use of a hockey ball for those hard to reach places. I have also found that using a hockey ball for massaging the plantar fasciitis is so helpful, and every runner should do this! It’s literally like heaven. The plantar fascia is that flat little band of ligament that connects your heel bone to your toes. It supports the arch of your foot and is prone to getting tense if you run a lot.

I have been stretching out in all kinds of bizarre ways and demanding a lot of deep tissue massages that result in me literally flying off the bed in absolute agony. I know people are split on these sorts of things but I just get that urge to pummel my sore areas and I am in no way recommending this technique.

So that’s it for this fortnight, don’t forget that I’ll also be raising money for Mind – the mental health charity. If you’d like to donate just text GOSA60 £1 (or whatever amount you’d like) to 70070, or alternatively click the button below. Thanks guys <3

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

So come back every fortnightly Saturday and you’ll find something new and exciting to read! Have you fueled a half marathon Paleo? How did you find it? Why not share your experience below.

Vivo Life

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