#BloodDontLie {Part 1}: How I’ve Changed My Approach to Running with the Help of Inside Tracker

If there is anything I’ve learned after two half marathons, it’s that there is way more to running & racing than the miles logged. Our bodies are so complex, so you can expect that training to push a body to a physical limit is more complex than simple physical strength. Success, accomplishments, wins, PRs, and overall health are all formulas. You can’t achieve the end result if a piece of the puzzle is missing. Or, in my case, you can find momentary success that will, unfortunately, cost you later if your formula is not balanced.

So let’s start from the beginning. In early March, I raced my second half marathon right at home in Charlotte. I had raced my first half back in October 2015 and had the time & race of a lifetime, so I was so excited to, in my opinion, prove myself in my own city and within the running circles locally. My training leading up to the Corporate Cup Half Marathon was going as close to perfect as I could have hoped. I didn’t have quite the energy I had training back for my first half marathon back in October, and yes my calves felt just about shot after every long workout, but I was still hitting my paces and getting in my workouts, so I was not about to get nervous about a little lack of energy and slight discomfort.

Race day came, and HELLO NEW PR! I took almost 4 minutes off my first half marathon and ended with a 1:28:51 (my goal was 1:29–1:30. Shows you how well I knew my body and my potential :) ). I was beyond elated at the finish line, surrounded by friends and cheers and medals. But then everything went downhill, starting with going home and eating a bowl of cereal for my recovery meal because I didn’t think I could hold any other meal down.

My recovery from this half marathon was horrendous. When I was detailing how much I hurt to my coach, he guessed that part of that blame went to going all out on the crazy hills of Charlotte. I wished I could take that and say, yes, nothing else is to blame but normal muscle fatigue. But everything hurt: my calves, my glutes, my back, my arms, my head. My insides were not to happy either: even after a week of “recovery,” I could not make it through a run without having to beeline for a bathroom. I could not keep nutrients in my body. I knew something else was going on other than my muscles being wrecked.

By some great chance, I went in for a routine physical the weekend after my half, and I hoped that my doctor could help me figure out what was going on inside. She took the same perspective of my coach: I was just fatigued from the race, and with some rest would be back to normal. She did the normal blood tests, and outside of my ALT levels being ridiculously high (I’m going back to get retested soon), she said everything was in the “normal” range. Normal? Nothing was skewed? I was fine? I was “normal?”

But is an endurance athlete a “normal” patient? Should my blood analytics match those of your everyday working woman? I didn’t think so. I was convinced something else was amiss.

So what does any endurance athlete do when she has a hunch? Google the crap out of why I could not recover. “Half Marathon Recovery.” “Supplements for Athletes.” “How to Recovery from a Race.” “Long-Lasting Muscle Fatigue.” “Runners Trots.” I googled everything. What did I find out? As much information as the internet holds, most of the information around nutrition, athletes, runners, and recovery is 1) incredibly diverse 2) really hard to understand 3) not personalized and 4) pretty controversial since everyone is apparently an “expert” and has his own idea of what real “health” and “recovery” are.

I’ll stop here just to note that it is not in my DNA to be fast to trust. In new relationships, it can take months for someone to gain my trust. In education, I seek out and ask for proof points before I opt to mark something as trustworthy. In short: I don’t listen to the internet. I am incredibly suspicious, especially when it comes to health advice, and rarely will take the guidance of a website or blog. As a rule of thumb, I seek out experts in the space, ones with the certifications that prove that they may actually know what they’re talking about. I trust proven science, not a hypothesis of some health blogger. BUT, even once I have found a trusted source, how do I know that what they are proposing will work for me? For my body? For my situation? As you can tell, I was in quite the debacle.

Insert InsideTracker.

I had started listening to a good deal of running podcasts during my training, and quite possibly my favorite podcast out there is Running On Om. I could go on and on about how incredible Julia is and how real and fun her guests are, but I’ll hold that for another post so I stay on topic. I listen to her podcasts on my commute to work, and one morning in March I heard a new name when she announced the sponsor for that day’s podcast. The show notes read:

What is Inside Tracker? A personalized health analytics company that gives YOU nutrition and lifestyle recommendations based on a thorough analysis of your blood and physiological data. InsideTracker has numerous different plans, of varying specificity, that will provide simple and sustainable nutrition and lifestyle recommendations to follow.

Hm. That sounds pretty legit. Let me Google it.

Google told me a few things:

  1. that InsideTracker was founded by scientists from MIT, Harvard and Tufts University to give blood-based, science-driven, effective advice on simple changes that can be made to optimize performance and health (Proof Point). I read scientific article after scientific article (Proof Point) about how the blood tests and site work, success stories of elite athletes who have used such programs (huge Proof Point), and more reviews about how the company has helped to not only pinpoint nutrition and athletic mishaps, but then goes a step further to personalize your “optimized” zones as well as personalizes guidelines on how you can achieve them.
  2. That some dude named Jonathan worked there and was incredibly interesting and funny on Twitter. Follow. He may not know it, but his activity on Twitter and his willingness to help explain how InsideTracker worked (both on Twitter & as a Customer Service Rep on the site) is in large part responsible for me trusting the company with analyzing my blood and giving me recommendations.

It took about a month of research and debate, but when my recovery and overall health was still was not improving, I chatted with Jonathan about my options and decided to send in my blood for a Performance & Inner Age screen.

The results? Stay tuned for Part 2 :)

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