When I ran my first half marathon in 2011, nobody told me that afterwards I would experience the so-called post-(half)marathon blues. The big race day was over, life was moving on, and all I really wanted was to experience the exhilarating feeling of accomplishment again. I didn’t know what to do with myself – go for my next run? Give myself another day to recover? – so I chose to take it one day at a time. Within a month, I ran another half marathon, and within a year and a half, I did a total of seven half marathons and one full, all because running another race seemed like the next logical step.
Here’s the deal: now that I’m done with my 3rd marathon, for the first time in my life I don’t feel that another running race is the next step on my fitness journey. Today I’ve finally mustered up the courage to share my new goal with you, and most likely, it’s not what you’re expecting.
The other day I came across a phrase: “Commitment is liberating’. Even though at first glance it may make no sense, it actually has some merit if you think about it. When you’re committed to a goal, you don’t question the necessity of making another little step towards it. Say, when you’re signed up for a race, you’re not going to allow yourself skip a workout prescribed by your training plan unless something extraordinary happens, and even then you’ll probably try to make it up later. You don’t question the necessity of that workout, and the lazy feeling that wants to chain you to a couch and binge-watch Netflix is easier to deal with (at least that’s been my experience).
In the first few days after Rock’n’Roll Seattle Marathon, I found myself going through marathon blues (‘What, the race is over already?! What do I do now?!’). I thought of going back to my old routine of 3-4 workouts a week as time allowed, but this didn’t sound appealing enough. I knew I needed a new commitment if I wanted to keep improving my fitness as opposed to just doing the same ol’ routine. And here’s where my new goal comes in.
You may remember me saying multiple times in my marathon training updates that at this point in my life, I’ve been enjoying strength training more than running. Of course, running is awesome, but I often find myself thinking about runs as a chore, whereas I’m always excited about my strength training workouts. Plus, there’s the desire to see how much I can improve, both in getting stronger and growing muscle on my notoriously thin runner’s body.
Another point: since I started this blog to show that vegans can be strong enough to run marathons, now I want to show that we can also grow muscle and do even more badass things!
But here’s the deal: if I don’t have a target day by which I have to be at my strongest and most muscular, I won’t be likely to give it my best. Without this equivalent of a race day in running, I’ll be more likely to skip workouts whenever a temptation hits – hey, nobody’s going to care if I go to the gym three or five times a week – and never fully reach my potential. In other words, I need the liberation of a commitment.
So here’s when my next big fitness goal comes in: the race day equivalents for muscle builders do exist, and they are called… well, you may have guessed it by now… bodybuilding competitions. And participating in one of those is now the next big thing on my vegan athlete ‘to do’ list!
Now, before you gasp and imagine those heavily drugged-up ‘muscle pile’ bodybuilders, please let me clarify that I am interested in competing in the lightest bodybuilding division for women that’s called bikini. Just google ‘bikini competitor’ and see for yourself what I’m talking about. Those women definitely have muscles, but they are also curvy and feminine, and you’re surely not going to cr*p your pants if you meet one in a dark alley late at night.
‘But Alina… isn’t looking good in a bikini kind of shallow and superficial?’ I hear ya. The thing is, doing what those women do out on the stage (just being alone on stage in front of hundreds of people to judge your body) is very much out of my comfort zone, to the extent that it scares me a little. Remember the saying, ‘If a goal you’ve picked doesn’t scare you, then you need to pick a bigger goal’? This is totally true for me. If that’s what it takes for me to take myself to the next level athletically AND overcome my introverted shyness, I’m all for it.
‘Are there other vegans doing this bodybuilding thing?’ Thankfully, there are. In a sport where nutrition plays a huge role in your progress and so many people can’t imagine getting in great shape without consuming endless chicken breasts and egg whites, vegan bodybuilders are truly a breath of fresh air. The most prominent group is Team Plantbuilt that was founded by Dani Taylor and Giacomo Marchese (I met them in person during VegFest Seattle a few months ago!) and includes such prominent bodybuilders as Jehina Malik (vegan since birth), Torre Washington, Derek Tresize, Samantha Shorkey (she competes in bikini division) and many others (there are totally too many parentheses in this sentence)(that’s for sure 🙂 ).
‘But aren’t bodybuilders taking lots of steroids and performance enhancers that end up ruining their health?’ Yes, that happens. My point is, however, to do it without any of that stuff, as naturally as I can. I won’t have to go overboard with growing my muscle to compete in bikini division, so I have no doubt in my mind that I’ll be able to get whatever muscle I need without steroids. In the next few months, I’ll be going through a steep learning curve to find out everything I need about fitness and the process of growing muscle, and one of my main goals right now is to find a good vegan bodybuilding coach to help me in this process.
‘Will you still be running?’ I’m planning to continue running a couple times a week, but there’s no goal to set new distance or speed records. There’s also a concern that doing lots of cardio can compromise muscle growth – something I need to research a bit more. So setting new running records is going on the back burner for now. When I get back to it, I’d like to train for a half marathon with Rob, and help him run his first 13.1.
‘But still, isn’t this a running blog?’ This is how Vegan Runner Eats originated. However, our personal growth can sometimes lead us towards the path we never thought we’d take, especially not years before. I’d like for my blog to evolve with me, and I hope you’ll understand and continue your following.
So this is my next big goal, and I’m inviting you to join me on the journey to achieving it! No, I’m not going to change the name of my blog to ‘Vegan Bikini Competitor Eats’, although I’m sure that name isn’t taken yet 🙂 . I’m very excited to see what this fitness journey will bring me next, so let’s do it!
P.S. In the next few months, I’m going to step away from publishing a new blog post every week, but it doesn’t mean that I’ll be abandoning this blog! It gets quite overwhelming to churn out a 1000+ word blog post every week (it looks like that’s how many words I need to get my point across) with a full-time job, a tight workout schedule and a freshly made dinner every night. Plus, I’m going to host my parents from Russia in a few weeks, which I’m incredibly excited about, especially since I haven’t seen them in almost three years! Anyway, I appreciate your patience, and I assure you that I’ll keep publishing new posts regularly, even if less frequently.
In case you’ve enjoyed this post, please share it with your friends or anyone who could benefit from it! And stick around for more awesomeness – you can follow Vegan Runner Eats by subscribing in the top right corner of this post, or by following the blog on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram!