Review: You Need a Budget (YNAB)

Disclaimer: I took advantage of the free trial offered to all new YNAB subscribers.  I have not communicated with anyone associated with the product.  All opinions are my own.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m a money-hungry capitalist stingy frugal.  This has served me well throughout the years.  My financial awareness helped me navigate through grad school on an $800/month stipend without taking out any additional loans and helped me pay off my minimal student loan debt from my undergraduate degree (a shout-out to my parents for enabling me to take out only minimal loans!) within a year or two of graduating with my MA.

So I kind of thought I had the financial thing down.  When I first randomly ran across YNAB (You Need a Budget), I thought it was a nice system, but I didn’t think I had any use for it.  I was doing just fine.  However, after a few very large and unfortunately-timed financial mishaps (namely, stolen and wrecked cars), I found myself suffering from a lot of anxiety about finances.  My financial anxiety is probably the main reason I’m relatively good with money.  I learned that I’d rather have a large buffer of money than a constant large knot in the pit of my stomach.

One day, I was reading a story on the YNAB website about a family paying off their debt (that and Ironman race reports are what my inspirational reading consist of!).  I started exploring their web page, and I found myself at a list of their rules, which I had actually read before.  However, the first rule jumped out at me in a way that it hadn’t before, and I suddenly started to wonder if maybe I could use this product and if it might help reduce my anxiety about money.

YNAB operates on four basic “rules”:

  1. Give every dollar a job. This is the rule that I suddenly saw in a new light.  I had always left myself some buffer room in my budget, in case I went over in any one category.  Suddenly, I realized that this unaccounted for money wasn’t going straight into my savings.  I had no accountability for this money, so it was going this way and that way.  Sure, sometimes it covered something needed like a parking ticket.  But usually it went to Barbacoa burritos because I was feeling too lazy to cook.
  2. Embrace your true expenses. This was something I already (mostly) did.  Essentially, everyone has expenses that don’t happen every month, whether it’s paying $300 for car insurance every 6 months or signing up for your annual Ironman.  The folks at YNAB suggest that you sock away money every month for these “true expenses” so that you are prepared when it’s time to address them.  I did this monthly for the most obvious expenses (like insurance and Christmas), but not for less-obvious expenses like general gifts or car maintenance.
  3. Roll with the punches. Don’t freak out if you go over budget.  Just find another category you can slash to make up the difference.
  4. Age your money. This rule used to be “live on last month’s income,” which I think is a little clearer.  Again, this was something I was already doing.  At the end of each month, I’d have a full month’s salary in my checking account, and any extra would be transferred to my savings account.  The benefit is that I never had to worry about what bill was being paid when or about overdrafting because I forgot I hadn’t been paid yet.  With a full month’s salary in your checking account, you can just swipe your debit card and call it good for all regular purchases.

So, I signed up for a free trial, starting using the software regularly, and promptly forgot about this draft post in lieu of Ironman training.  Now, I’m coming back to it with my thoughts and opinions after using it regularly for several months.

The basic approach of YNAB is to only budget the money you literally have at the moment.  The question you are supposed to ask yourself is, “What does this money need to do before I get paid again?”  When you get paid, you put the money you have into specific categories associated with specific months and then spend from those categories.  In that way, it’s essentially a digital envelope system which is perfect for me.  I love the way an envelope system helps you visualize your budget, but I’m far too lazy to use a traditional cash-only envelope system, and having a bunch of different checking or savings accounts is overwhelming to me.

Once you’ve budgeted out your money, you spend from your categories instead of from your balance total.  In other words, if you go grocery shopping, the money you spend comes from the grocery category.  Once the grocery category runs out, you just have to stop eating. (Well, really, if you overspend, you can transfer money from another category to cover it.)  For me, this helps created a false sense of scarcity.  Sure, my dining out category and my gas category may be looking flush.  But if my grocery category is struggling, I’ll be careful about what I spend on groceries.  In other words, I see that I only have $15 left in my grocery budget (looks like it’s time for soup!) instead of seeing that I have $150 left to spend in all before the end of the month.

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A sample transaction using the mobile app.

Throughout the months, I’ve fine-tuned my categories.  For instance, I found myself never wanting to buy deodorant or shampoo because it was just coming out of my grocery budget.  Obviously, I need those things.  So I created a new “Beauty and hygiene” category for that kind of stuff.  YNAB deals with this kind of flexibility and change very well.  I haven’t had any issues crop up after rethinking my budget categories.

I started using the software near the end of May with the express purpose of saving up for a “new” car.  In the five months that I’ve been using it, I’ve managed to save just under $4,000 towards that goal, and since I tend to buy older cars, that means I’m almost there.  I did that while in the build-up to my Ironman (expensive!), contributing (a little) to my retirement, and without making the big bucks to begin with.  I suspect I’ll be financially able to start looking for a car by the end of November.

A few highlights for me:

I knew I had to get my driver’s license renewed this year.  I also thought I would need to get a new copy of my birth certificate to do so.  I contributed money to my “Legal/Paperwork” category for a few months so I’d have the cash on hand.  And then, I didn’t need a birth certificate and my new license was way less expensive than I thought it’d be.  So I ended up being able to put a hefty chunk of cash in my new car fund.

I grossly underestimated the amount of money I’d spend on triathlon the month of my Ironman, and new race tires emptied out my triathlon budget (and then some).  So I moved some money from my Darn it Fund (which is a category created to fund any overspends or things I forgot about) to cover it.  If I hadn’t had that category, I could have essentially borrowed money from myself and taken it from a category I knew I wouldn’t be using for a while.

My fall is packed with birthdays and weddings.  Instead of spending a lot of money in September, October, and November, I started stashing gift money away in May so that all of the gifts won’t be an issue at all.

When I’m tempted to be lazy and get takeout or fast food for dinner, I am now able to see how much money I have in that category.  Usually, it’s not worth it.  Over the past four months, I have been so much better about deciding to get takeout or go out for dinner because I want that experience and not because I’m feeling too lazy to make a simple dinner.

A few lowlights:

I hate entering the transactions, and I’m really bad at it.  You can often sync YNAB with your bank, but I don’t like doing that, so I tend to get behind on transactions and enter them every few days.  It’s usually fine, but I can never remember if my Smith’s transactions are for gas or groceries.  This is not the fault of the software but rather the result of my own laziness.  The mobile app actually makes it really convenient to enter transactions as you go.

Periodically, I’ll click on something and suddenly that fund is full of money or a bunch of money (that I don’t have) goes to completely fulfill a goal I’ve set.  There’s always a brief moment of panic, but the undo button does its job and I try to remember what that particular click does for next time.

The goal functionality is a little annoying.  I had a goal set up for my gifts category (a certain amount by September, when the birthday and wedding tsunami started to hit).  Well, once I started spending money for those gifts, obviously the amount in that category started to go down and went below the goal amount.  So I just had to delete the goal once I reached it and moved past it.  It would be fun to actually check off the goal as finished or something like that.

My verdict after using the software for a few months?

Try it.

Unless you are already using budgeting software that works for you (and maybe even if you are!), you should give YNAB a try.

The number one thing that YNAB helps me do is see what I have left at the end of the month and make an actual decision with it.  Previously, as the end of the month approached (bills paid, planned contributions to savings account made), I’d take a look at my bank account.  If I had money left above and beyond my one-month buffer, I’d feel okay spending it.  On whatever.  It was “free money” at that point.

Now, at the end of the month, I can see which specific categories have money left over and can actually make a conscious decide what to do with it.  Twenty dollars left over in my grocery budget?  I’ll let it roll over to next month’s grocery budget because that’s the category I tend to overspend most frequently.  Thirty dollars left in my gas budget for the month?  I may stick it in my New Car category or I may put it in my Dining Out category so Rob and I can get some (really good!) takeout at some point during the next month.  But I make the decision consciously, and not on a whim.

YNAB costs $5 a month (or you can save a bit and pay $50 for a year).  However, they offer a free 34 day trial, and if you Google “YNAB 90 day trial,” you should find some special promotions by bloggers who wrote sponsored reviews for YNAB.  For me, the cost is well worth it.  Even though I was fairly responsible with money before YNAB, it has helped me save far more than an additional $5 a month.

And best of all?  It has helped a good deal with my financial anxiety.  It hasn’t completely taken it away, but it has given me the level of control over my finances that I need in order to help mitigate my anxiety.  I don’t necessarily like what my financial situation looks like, but I know enough about it to know what needs to change, and I have the tools to change it.

 

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Review: Kodiak Cakes Protein Packed Flapjack and Waffle Mix

Disclaimer: I received a sample package of Kodiak Power Cake mix in the swag bag for the Salt Lake City half marathon.  I have no dealings with the company and am reviewing the product for fun.

So, I’ve never really been into specialty foods.  And I’ve never jumped on board the protein train.  I’ve always eaten a very carb-heavy diet.  Since I’ve never had any negative side-effects of eating all the carbs within my field of vision, I’ve never felt the need to seek out low-carb, high-protein versions of particular foods.  If I want a pizza, I want a traditional crust, not cauliflower.  If I want a brownie, I high-sugar deliciousness, not something filled with black beans for more protein.

Despite this, though, when I saw a sample-size box of Kodiak Power Cakes in my swag bag for the Salt Lake City half marathon, I was pretty excited.  And not just because the box was small and therefore adorable.  I’ve read enough training/fitness blogs that I’ve seen people eating and discussing Kodiak pancakes, so I was curious if they would live up to the hype.  Plus, I love free food.

A couple of days before I ended up making the pancakes, I took the box out of the cupboard and looked at the directions, just to make sure I didn’t need to get anything to make them.  While doing this, I actually paid attention to the packaging.  Looking at it a bit closer somehow defamiliarized the entire thing.  Pancake mix.  Called power cakes.  With a roaring bear on the front of the box.  I looked up at Rob.  “Do you think this is supposed to be hipster ironic or did they not even realize how ridiculous they were being when they designed this box?”

“I think they probably didn’t have any idea.”

“Huh.”

FrontBox

The packaging seemed like it was created for a strange mix of audiences.  On the one hand, the brown cardboard box looked like it was hearkening back to an “olden days” feel—the same way the flannel shirts and big, clunky boots that hipsters love to wear do.  The all-natural and non-GMO labels played into this.  On the other hand, packing random foods with protein and calling them “power [whatever]” with a roaring bear on the front of the box seemed to play into the super fit gym rat stereotype of the early 2000s.  It occurred to me that these two stereotypes have kind of merged in the paleo movement.  And I realized how strange it was that the all-natural health movement now has a natural intersection with the health movement that often relies on supplements and additions to food.

This kind of unexpected mix of worlds got me curious and I looked the company up.  Apparently, the Power Cakes are a newer addition to their lineup.  Their first product was simply a whole-grain, natural pancake/waffle mix that was first sold commercially at the ski resorts in Utah (which explains the folksy packaging and the wildlife on the box).  I’m assuming Power Cakes are their attempt to break into the paleo movement, as carb-filled pancakes (even whole-grain ones!) are not necessarily in vogue right now.  The packing was much more relatable after I realized how it had (likely) come about.

Anyway, on Sunday, I finally got around to making the pancakes for breakfast.  The mix gives three options, depending on how much protein you want.  You can make it with just water for 14g of protein a serving, you can replace the water with milk for pancakes that have 18g of protein a serving, or you can use milk and an egg for pancakes with a whopping 21g of protein a serving.

Mixing.jpg

I ended up making them with milk.  The batter came together without any issues and looked just like you would expect pancake batter to look.  I added a bit more milk than called for because the batter was a little thick for my taste.  And then it was time to actually cook the batter.  Usually, my first pancake turns out terribly.  I try to flip it too early and instead of waiting once I realize I’m prematurely flipping, I just go for it and ruin the whole pancake.  However, this time, I nailed the first pancake which is probably more likely due to wisdom and experience (and finally learning after dozens of failed first pancakes) than about the mix.

Cooking

I did notice that the pancakes bubbled less than typical batter does, so I had to watch the pancakes a little more closely to see when it was time to flip, and I actually had a little bit of trouble overcooking the outside of the pancakes for the first time ever (which was likely an operator error).

I made three pancakes before Rob informed me that he wasn’t going to have any for breakfast.  Apparently, he had a headache and thought pancakes might be a little too heavy and make him feel worse.  So I had three pancakes to eat!

Cooked
I only took a picture of two pancakes…

I sat down to eat them in my typical pancake fashion (no butter because it’s so hard to spread, syrup on the side so I can dip each bite in instead of eating soggy pancakes).  And they were… good.  They tasted like whole-grain pancakes. On the upside, I couldn’t pick out any different taste that might be attributed to the added protein.  But on the downside… they tasted like whole-grain pancakes.  I love whole grain bread and rolls and such, but I prefer the foods typically considered “comfort foods” (pancakes, cookies, etc.) to be made with regular white flour.  The nutty, more savory flavor of whole-grain is better in a bread than in a pancake (in my opinion).  Perhaps I should have put peanut butter on them as I think peanut butter goes really well with the whole-grain flavor.

Still, they were pancakes.  I happily ate all three, but I wouldn’t have wanted any more than that (I was getting pancaked out).  I had some batter leftover, so I put it in the fridge.  But I’m honestly not sure if I will use it or if it will just end up sitting in there until I throw it out.  I did notice that I stayed full for quite a while after eating the Kodiak Power Cakes.  I went to church and came home where I ate a pretty small lunch before going out on a bike ride.

To be honest, I won’t go out and purchase Kodiak Cakes for myself.  Name-brand pancake mixes are much more expensive than simply mixing the ingredients together from scratch, and not all that much easier.  I’m not trying to add protein into my diet, and I don’t avoid pancakes when I want them, so finding a healthier substitute isn’t on my radar.  But there was nothing wrong with them.  They cooked up fine, and they tasted as good as whole-grain pancakes can.  Plus, they really do have a mind-boggling amount of protein in them, considering they are pancakes.  If you are trying to supplement your diet with more protein or trying to limit your carb intake but really want pancakes, Kodiak Power cakes are a great option.  Otherwise, just open up your pantry and whip up some pancakes yourself!

Review: CW-X 3/4 Length Stabilyx Tights

Disclaimer: I purchased these tights with my own money and of my own accord.  All opinions are mine.  I did receive a discount, but that was unrelated to this review and is explained below.

If you’ve followed my blog, you know I was in a pretty serious bind a couple weeks before my first marathon.  I was struggling with almost unmanageable pain in my IT band.  I had to bail on my final long run halfway through and hitch a ride back to Rob’s place.  After being forced to cut a tempo run short a few days later, I realized I was in trouble.

I did what I could when you can’t run with a marathon approaching quickly.  I stopped running, started icing, and did everything I could to let my IT band heal before attempting to go out and run 26.2 miles on it.  In my worry, I made an impulse purchase.  Rob told me that a co-worker of his struggled with IT band pain a while back.  This co-worker bought a pair of CW-X Stabilyx tights which were a silver bullet for his pain.  I was willing to try anything at that point, so I ponied up the money and ordered a pair myself.  These are an expensive pair of tights, retailing for about $90.  I got them for a discount because I ordered them from Rob’s company, and I ended up paying around $50.

I faced a bit of a dilemma when deciding which size to order.  I’m 5’10” and currently hovering around 130 pounds.  This put me at five pounds lighter than a medium but three inches taller than a small on the size chart.  I decided to go with the medium because at 5’10”, I was on even on the upper edge of the height range of medium.  I think I chose the best size, but I’m not sure there was a right size for someone like me.  Most of the reviews I read about the tights mentioned how difficult it was to get them on because they were so tight.  I was expecting much more of a struggle to put them on.  I don’t know if this was because mine were a little looser than ideal or because I’m used to putting on a wetsuit when most of the other reviewers weren’t.  I suspect both of those factors were in play.  However, after putting them on, I could tell that they were just long enough.  It’s pretty clear where the knee is supposed to be, and if mine were much shorter, they would not have wrapped around the knee the way they should.  So, if you are tall and underweight, finding the perfect fit may be difficult.

The CW-X Stabilyx tights are designed to support your joints and muscles.  You can see from the photos how the seams run down the leg and surround the knee.  The material in between the seams is thick and doesn’t have much give, whereas the rest of the tights are made with the typical, more forgiving running tights material.  The effect of the webbing of support is a feeling that everything is being held in place.  When I put these tights on for the first time, I felt more supported.  They were also pretty comfortable too, and that’s saying a lot coming from me.  I get very annoyed very quickly by things like tight clothing.  Oh, and according to Rob, they make my hamstrings look “monstrous,” so that’s a plus too!

More importantly, how did they work? I’d like to note that I hardly did a scientific study when testing these tights out.  I took over a week off running before I wore them for the first time to run a marathon.  I was also doubled up on Advil and Tylenol during the marathon.  I could feel the presence of my IT band pretty early on in the race, but it wasn’t pain.  After a five or so miles, I did get some pain, but it was completely manageable and did not get worse throughout the run.  During the runs I had to cut short because of my IT band pain, the pain eventually became a radiating jolt that originated in my knee but that I felt through my lower leg.  The pain was perfectly manageable and actually got better during the later miles.  Additionally, my knee didn’t stiffen up when I stopped for water or to walk which has happened in the past.

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The tights in action.

However, these tights were not a silver bullet for my IT band pain.  It was wishful thinking to entertain the thought that they would be, but hope springs eternal and all that.  After giving myself a rest after the marathon, I’ve started running again and have made sure to wear these tights for every run.  I’ve also been wearing them when I work on my strength training to fix the underlying issues causing my pain.  The first run, I got some IT band pain almost immediately and cut the run short.  However, I didn’t have any follow-up pain post-run.  The second run felt much better during the run, and I managed thirty minutes with very little pain.  I do plan on wearing these compression tights during my runs for the foreseeable future—either until my knee stops hurting or it just gets too warm, whichever comes first.

These tights may not have been a magical cure (for me), but that doesn’t mean they are a bad product or that they don’t do their job.  My lower body does feel more supported when I wear them, and I do think that they helped keep my IT band pain at bay during my marathon.  Compression gear in general is a good tool to have in your training gear kit, and these tights are high quality compression gear.  They are also very comfortable, despite the constriction that is a necessary part of their design.  The color choices are great too.  You can go with plain black or with a variety of more creative, colorful options.

Are they worth $90?  Is any piece of running clothing worth $90?  For this discount-hunter, probably not.  I’m glad I didn’t pay $90 for them, but then, I’m not the type to just drop $90 on any piece of clothing. (Buying cycling gear is a… difficult process for me).  However, they were well worth the discounted price that I paid.  They are useful, pretty effective, and they are comfortable enough to wear regularly.  That’s just about the dictionary description of a good piece of running gear.

Review: “Run Less, Run Faster” marathon training program

Disclaimer: I chose this training program of my own accord.  The folks who created Run Less, Run Faster have no idea I even exist.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Now that I’ve completed a full training cycle using Run Less, Run Faster, I feel qualified to offer up some non-professional opinions about it.

To begin with, here are the reasons why I initially chose the Run Less, Run Faster program:

  • Lots of cross-training: Great for a triathlete.
  • Three runs a week: I don’t always like running all that much.
  • Simple: Each week was structured the same way, and the paces were very easy to calculate.
  • Free: I found a version online for free. Yes, please!

There is a book which offers a more recent version of the program, along with cross-training workouts and ways to customize the plan if needed.  However, I just used the article I found on Runner’s World and put together a schedule using that.

The Run Less, Run Faster plan is actually quite polarizing.  There are some great reviews online and some reviews that are very critical of its entire premise.  I tried to offer a fair review here that acknowledged some of those criticisms.  Overall, though, I had a very positive experience with Run Less, Run Faster.  I don’t think it’s the right plan for everyone, but it was the right plan for me.

The Run Less aspect of the program is probably its biggest marketing point.  And it was probably my favorite part.  Now, “running less” does not necessarily mean working out less.  The Run Less, Run Faster program is supposed to include 2-3 days of cross-training on top of the three days of running.  I didn’t use the cross-training workouts provided by the book.  I mostly went on 30-60 minute bike rides and did Masters Swim Team practices.  A lot of the criticisms of the Run Less, Run Faster program revolve around this focus on cross-training.  Essentially, the critique is that to run better, you have to run more.  I think this criticism has validity to it, but when you are a triathlete (even an off-season one!), running more isn’t always better.  The Run Less, Run Faster program allowed me to keep cross-training throughout the winter so that I wouldn’t have as much ground to make up in the spring.  As an added bonus, I became a much better swimmer this winter as well as improving my running endurance and speed.  Becoming a better swimmer might not matter to a pure runner, but it does matter to a triathlete.  For this reason alone, I can’t see myself using any of the other common marathon training plans out there.  At this point in my life, I am focusing enough on triathlons that I can’t afford to take a four month break from two of the three disciplines.

The other major part of this program is the Run Faster aspect. And, without a doubt, I became a much faster runner using this program.  I’ve spent the past few years a little scared of running fast and just running long and slow (or, usually, short and slow)  But the track workouts in this program helped me pick some of that speed back up.  My ability to run faster over the short distances made the slower distances of my tempo and long runs feel much easier.  When I was training for my half Ironman a few years ago, I typically ran my long runs around a 9:00/mile pace.  My long runs during my marathon training were all under an 8:30/mile pace.  Not only that, but I found myself actually enjoying the speed work.  Because I’m often not a huge fan of running, I need some variety to make something as arduous as marathon training palatable.  I’m hoping that the speed I developed carries over into my Ironman training.  I know I will lose some speed as I focus more on the other two sports and more on just plain endurance, but I’m confident I’ll be faster than I would have been had I not worked on increasing my speed this winter.

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At the track, trying to run fast.

Another touted benefit of the Run Less, Run Faster program is injury-prevention.  According to the program, running only three days a week helps you avoid overuse injuries.  However, according to criticisms of the program, only ever running fast (like this program calls for—even the long runs are faster than with most programs) is more likely to lead to injuries than volume.  Honestly, I’m a bit on the fence about this.  Note that I did spend the last week of this training cycle not running because of IT band pain.  However, I don’t believe that is due to the Run Less, Run Faster program.  After doing some very official Internet Research™, I’ve come to the conclusion that my focus on cycling the past few years is what has made my IT band a problem when it never was before.  From what I read, triathletes who run a lot (me this winter!) often suffer from IT band pain because, with the amount of cycling they do, developing quads at the expense of glutes is pretty much inevitable.  It wasn’t the cross-training within the Run Less, Run Faster program that caused this.  It was the long rides up Big Cottonwood and the frequent rides up Emigration Canyon that were the culprits.  In fact, I think I would have started suffering from intense IT band pain much earlier in my training if I had been using a traditional program.  IT band pain tends to be worse on slower runs.  I noticed this myself.  I barely felt it at all during my intervals.  It was my longer runs that gave me trouble.  Doing cross-training on the days where I was not running hard gave my IT band a chance to recover a bit instead of going from hard run to slow run and constantly creating opportunity for it to get more and more irritated.

That being said, I do think there can be a risk of injury from the “run fast” part of the program for certain runners.  I ran track for eight years.  My body, despite the long break I took, understands running fast(ish).  And, in the grand scheme of things, “running fast” in a marathon training program still wasn’t fast compared to what I ran in college, especially because I was a hurdler.  Lots of short events.  So, while the speed work was a strain on my body, it was a good strain—the kind the challenges you and makes you better.  If you’ve never done speed work before, the intervals in the Run Less, Run Faster might overwhelm your body.  If you are just getting into speed work, it might be better to focus on longer intervals like mile repeats instead of 400s that are about :45/mile faster than your 5k pace.

The other major criticism of the Run Less, Run Faster plan is that the fast long runs and lack of longer, slow distances limit your aerobic development.  And during my marathon, I crashed hard.  I don’t think the training plan can be blamed for the entirety of that.  After all, I performed better on all my long runs than I did for the first 15-20 miles of my marathon.  I was failing just fine on my own before the plan even had the chance to fail me.  However, it’s possible that if I had stronger base aerobic fitness for running, the stress of life or my carefulness of with my knee or a bad day wouldn’t have been quote so devastating for my performance.  Obviously, there’s no way to know.

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Feeling awful after my marathon

So, would I use the Run Less, Run Faster program again?  I absolutely would.  As I said above, as a triathlete, it seems like the best option for me.  Even if I weren’t a triathlete, I loved the training (as much as I could possibly love training for a marathon).  I liked getting faster and seeing my progress.  I don’t enjoy recovery runs.  Because I don’t enjoy running as much as I do swimming or cycling, I have a hard time going on runs that are “just cardio” and aren’t actual, defined workouts.  The focus on cross-training kept me from burning out mentally.

If I did the program again, though, I think I would make some changes:

  1. Get the actual book. This way, I’d understand the plan better and be more equipped to make changes if necessary.
  2. More warming up and cooling down. I was not great at warming up and cooling down with my speed work and tempo runs.  If I use this plan again, I will make sure that my warm-up/cool down for these faster workouts is much more significant.  Like, running a mile or two before a five mile tempo run and cooling down for at least a mile.  This would help me get in some of that slow running that the plan doesn’t include.
  3. Longer bike rides. Because it was winter, my bike rides suffered.  I should have been getting out on some rides that were 90 minutes or longer.  That would have helped my general aerobic fitness and perhaps given me some of the same benefits as a long, slow run would.
  4. Strength training. Knowing what I know now about the IT band, I would make sure to include glute strengthening in any marathon training program from the get-go.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
  5. One more run a week. Maybe I would do this, maybe I wouldn’t.  But I would consider adding in one extra easy run a week, perhaps as part of a bike-run brick.

As I said at the beginning, overall, I had a great experience with the Run Less, Run Faster training plan itself.  The race that I trained for, however, didn’t go nearly as well.  How much of that is the fault of the plan is impossible to say.  I would eventually like to get some redemption for that shoddy marathon of mine, and when that time comes, I’ll be using this training plan with some of the modifications noted above.  Hopefully, the next time around, I’ll be able to write a review without the caveat of a bad race.