My Micro-Injuries: Sesamoiditis to Bursitis

Hi Runners! Another week, another new blog! Great news today as we have finally received news about the lifting of the lockdown in England, so track session will be back by the end of March! Today’s blog is a more current issue which I’ve been having since upping my training. As I have now implemented weekly 1500m time trials into my training schedule, my harder days are tough! But, I need to make the times for the chance to study in the US.

If you aren’t aware, I am striving towards attending a D1 college in the USA for the 2022 graduation. The times I need to reach are sub 4:40 in the 1500m, and 2:08 in the 800m. I am currently on 5:12 in the 1500m and 2:17 in the 800m. So lots to improve!

Since my major knee injury back in May, it has been extremely tough, and I have experienced many many setbacks. Although training is consistent, I have had to take days off this month for micro-injuries.

The first micro-injury I contracted was seisamoiditis. I had personally never heard of it before, and once I started researching, I found so many helpful sites for recovery. Unlike many other countries, England is still in lockdown, so a physio was not available for me, but if you do experience any injuries or prolonged pain, definitely have it checked out by a professional.

The sesamoids are located below the big toe and the injury usually occurs due to worn-down shoes. I contracted it from running on the trails in shoes with little tread, and I had stumbled on a rock, putting pressure on my sesamoids.

Of course, as every injury starts off, it was not an ideal situation. I took Tuesday and Wednesday off from running and focused on strength and cardio training. I do not have a bike (manual or machine), rowing machine, or elliptical, so working on cardio was not an option for me. Or so I thought…

After researching for hours (every runner knows the feeling), I stumbled across someone who had also struggled with sesamoiditis. Her name is Caroline Jordan, and she was my life-line for the two days I spent rehabbing. I have linked her cardio video below for anyone currently struggling with a leg or foot injury.

After two days of rest, I started running on it to test out the pain, and with a new pair of Hoka protective trainers, the pain was easing. For the next two days I focused on slow, easy runs and by Sunday I was able to start incorporating speed into my training again.

Two weeks later, and I am back on the injury train again; I was definitely not happy about it. This time, I had contracted knee bursitis, with pain on the inside of my knee. I decided to recheck my training timetable as clearly I was doing something which was causing me injury. And I soon discovered the cause… For strength training, I had been focusing on plyometrics and I had been jumping up flights of stairs for my “bounds”. It was clearly aggravating my knee with the hard surface I was jumping on, so I made sure to replace that exercise with something more knee-friendly. This is why it is so important to write down and log your training.

I took Thursday, Friday and Saturday off, and focused on stretching my quads, hamstrings and calves. I have linked the most useful video below.

I also completed a different chair cardio workout, making sure I did not flex and extend my knee excessively.

On the Sunday, my dad drove me to a flatter running loop where I tested out my knee. With no pain, I started off with slow, easy runs, increasing in volume every couple of days. The main problem was my tight calves and I make sure to stretch and massage them before and after every training session.

I was very lucky that these injuries did not progress to anything worse and that I listened to my body and adapted my training. My body felt a bit sluggish after three days off, but I am now back to full fitness and progressing forwards.

I hope these videos and tips helped anyone out there currently struggling with injuries. As runners, we have all experienced them, but know that brighter days are on the horizon.

*Disclaimer: This is what worked for my body’s needs. Your injury process could be very different. Find what works for you and steer away from exercises that aggravate it!

Lots of love,

Florence 🙂

Catch-up with me: December-January!

Hi Runners,

Hope everyone is staying positive, and working hard! Here’s the run-down from December to current.

December 2020 – Races were cancelled due to COVID, but I had been training with the speed group for a month and I was starting to see improvements in the track sessions, especially in the short reps, e.g., 10x300m.

My weekly timetable shifted to: two days at the track, one tempo run, one beach training, one long run, one recovery run and one rest day. I was excited to see progression!

Beach trainings were incredibly difficult, and I found any distance over 500m hard to keep up. But, I knew that the consistency would show.

January 2021 – A 4k time trial on the beach, 4 laps of a 1km hilly route. Running on the sand is no joke, it tests your quad muscles like they’ve never been tested before. I didn’t have any preconceived ideas going into the race, just that I would try to stick to the front pack as much as I could.

The race did not go according to plan (a common theme here :). My form was sloppy and I finished second-last, in a time of 19:24. I didn’t know how to react, I just had to accept that it was a bad race. But, I knew it was so much more than that.

The following day, I resolved to prove my worth so I ran a 1500m time trial with an aim to go sub-5:15. I ran a 5:31. My dad called me over afterwards and told me how sloppy my form looked, how my legs looked heavy and how my arms were swinging sideways.

Lesson 4: Form is so important. Make sure that when you come back from injury, you focus on your form!

We found out that it was my arms that were restricting my entire body movement, making my legs heavy, my upper body slump forward, and my entire run look unnatural. I started to focus on my arm swing when sprinting and realised that my right arm would flop down when running. I swapped my watch to my right wrist so I could feel the weight of it and remind myself to use my shoulders to pump.

In the past three weeks I have run a 5:27, 5:22 and 5:12 time trial, my first sub-5:30’s after six tries. It just goes to show that form is so crucial. I also learnt how to release all the pent-up tension in my mind, the pressure I was putting on myself to achieve a certain time in training, otherwise I wasn’t improving enough. The process is certainly not linear, and some days will feel so much better than others. Keep celebrating the small improvements and your training will go a long way!

If you managed to make it this far, thank you and I hope that you can find some strength from my struggles to inspire you to keep going, regardless of all the setbacks.

My next blog: ‘mental toughness and the importance of running form’ will be posted next week.

Lots of love,
Florence 🙂

The Blog is Back!!! Catch-up with me: September – November!

Hi Runners,

How is everyone doing? It’s been a while since I’ve sat down to write a blog post. I honestly can’t believe it’s nearly February; where has all the time gone!

It’s been about four months since my last post, and I’ve been so surprised by the amount of visitors to my site. So thank you to all the new readers! We’ve hit 24 followers, which is a huge achievement for me, and I hope you enjoy reading all the new blog posts to come. I haven’t been the most active due to challenges from college and running, but I’m finally ready for the blog comeback!

But, first, a catch-up of the past few months. They have certainly been months of learning and development as a person. I know that everyone claims on social media that they have developed into a more vibrant, radiant person due to their challenges, but I have a much more positive mindset from the setbacks I have faced. It took five months of really difficult times and feeling like a disappointment to finally realise that I needed to shift my perspective of life. I honestly hit rock bottom, but I learnt how to pick myself up, dust myself down, and see the enjoyment in running once more. It was all about relieving the self-pressure, putting life into perspective, letting go of past failures, and stepping away from the watch.

September 2020 – My first month at my new college! It was a nerve-wracking experience having to make new friends in a new town, but I’m glad to say that I have met people who I am genuinely close yo and have a lot in common with. I know for some people making friends is hard, but in a college environment, there are so many people you communicate with everyday, that there is always someone you will click with.


Running-wise, it was the start of my comeback month post-injury. I was running a consistent mileage week with one track session, one long run, one tempo run, three recovery runs, and one day-off. A few races were being held, but I decided not to compete in them as my times were relatively slow and I was focusing on strength and endurance, rather than speed.

October 2020 – College work started to ramp up, and I was spending time with friends and family, but also working hard to maintain my grades. We were regularly being tested and I knew I had important exams in November, so I made sure I kept my binders, online folders, and notebooks organised. I have always wanted to work hard at school, but I realised that I was spending hours every night studying after school and running, and not giving myself any time to relax and unwind.

So, Lesson 1: give yourself time to unwind in the evening, otherwise the mental weight of homework and computer time can have a negative impact on your life.

Running was not quite going as planned. Although I was performing consistent mileage week-after-week, I hadn’t seen any improvement since August. My dad and I would go to the nearby town for a 5k time-trial around the estuary (a 3k loop), and my times were clearly showing signs of getting slower, rather thank faster. Honestly, it was heart-breaking, feeling as if my hard work was going to waste, but I had faith that soon I would start to see an improvement, however long that took.

November 2020 – My first 1500m time trial at the track. I was currently training with the adult endurance group, but I was racing against the 15-16 year olds who train in the speed group on Tuesday and Thursday. After the 5k time trial at the end of October with an even slower time than the September time trial, my dad talked to the speed coach who invited me to come train with the group.

My first session was the week before the 1500m. It was 15x200m, and my body received a shock from the speed. I had become so accustomed to running slow, steady miles, that I had lost all my speed. My body ached the day after, but I finally felt that I need to join the speed group to start seeing faster times.

So, Lesson 2: make the change. If something is not working out, find a way to deal with it.

The 1500m time trial was the following week, my first ever attempt at the distance. I ran a 5:24, finishing the race humiliated after coming last by around 20 seconds. It felt like another setback, another disappointment following a string of disappointing time-trials since September.

The following week, I ran a 5:18, a 6 second PB. It felt like my times were on the rise.

Lesson 3: You will see results eventually (and always race in shorts, they are much more liberating than leggings).

The following week, we were back in lockdown. Having to adjust to the ever-changing news and lockdown rules has been difficult for everybody, especially athletes. Training alone on the streets is so different to training on the track with your team and it can leave us feeling lost. But, we are also the luckiest because we have running as our outlet from life, from all of the online school and homework. It is the one time in the day to escape the problems of life. So, don’t beat yourself up if you had a bad run, a bad day, or even if you didn’t manage to fit in a run. The winter weather is making it harder for us all, but by sharing our experiences together, we will get through this.

The catch-up with me series continues next week, when I will talk about my experiences from December to January.

Until then, stay safe and find ways to brighten the day, however small they may be!

Lots of love,
Florence 🙂

Olympic Courses and Certificates!

Hi Runners! Welcome back to Runner Diaries!!! Today’s blog is all about learning a little bit more about our sport and here’s how you can do it:

A few months ago, my teacher introduced me to the Olympic channel: https://www.olympic.org/athlete365/ where there are around twenty courses that you can follow for free to learn about every possible aspect of your sport. All you have to do is sign up with your email and then choose your desired sport. Mine is obviously athletics, but they also have every sport that is celebrated at the Olympic Games.

Once you have logged in, click the courses tab and you can scroll through the entire list of courses. They also do them in different languages which is incredibly useful!

The first course I completed was the ‘Sport’s Psychology’ one. It took me about two hours to complete, but the website saves your progress so you can come back the next day to finish the course.

It was such an interesting experience and I learnt about a lot of new visualisation tricks and tips to practise during trainings for before my races. And… at the end of each course you receive a certificate from the Olympic Channel which you can print out and frame, or you can put it on your CV if you fancy!

It is a really great opportunity to continue learning so much more about our sport, and they have so many more courses from nutrition to sports coaching. Try one out and see how much you learn!

Hope everyone’s training is going as planned. Keep it up!

Lots of love,

Florence

My 5k Time Trial!!!

Hi Runners! Welcome back to the bloggggg! So, after only four weeks of training post-injury, my coach decided that he was going to host a 5k time trial at a nearby circuit. It was a two lap course around a lake, with each runner being staggered so as to follow the social distancing rules.

There were around 25 of us running and we arrived at 6:30pm to collect our bibs and start warming up. I was slightly nervous as I hadn’t raced in over six months and it has been two years since my last 5k. I also had no clue what my fitness level was as the trainings over the past couple weeks have been incredibly difficult.

After our 15 minute warm-up, we jogged to the starting line and waited for our names to be called on the list for the staggered start.

Once my name was called, I set off at a fast but comfortable pace. On the first turn, I ran the wrong way and had to run back down the road, but I minused the missed seconds off my finishing time. The first 3k felt comfortably hard, but the final 2k were very very difficult. The last mile was painful and I tried to catch a few runners at the end. I finished in a time of 20:59, having thrown everything into the last mile.

Although it isn’t a lifetime PB, I am so so happy with my finishing time. I honestly wasn’t fully confident going into the trial, and I had no expectations about times so I was delighted with my splits: 4:04, 4:16, 4:16, 4:15, 4:08.

It’s going to take a long time to regain my previous fitness, and even longer to improve my previous fitness and earn new PB’s, but I’m working hard each and every day to achieve my goals. It’s not going to be pretty and it is going to hurt more than it has ever hurt before, but I know I have it in me to become the best possible athlete I can be.

Lots of love

Florence 😉

My Struggle With Tempo Runs and Getting ‘Comfortable with being Uncomfortable’

Hi Runners! Welcome back to another blog. I can’t believe it is already the middle of August and I only start school in three weeks! So far, the school has agreed that we are going to start back face-to-face, but we will see what happens over the next couple of weeks. The school will be following all of the social-distancing rules so it will be very different to last year, but at least they are keeping everyone safe.

So, today’s blog is mainly focused on tempo runs and the difficulty I have been experiencing whilst re-building my fitness. It has been so so hard and every session feels like my lungs are going to explode and my legs are going to give way. It has also taken my body and my mind a while to come to terms with getting “comfortable with being uncomfortable”.

I had my first two trainings with my new club at the track and at a local area where there are a lot of grassy dunes for hill training, and they were a lot harder than I anticipated. I think I presumed that I my fitness was a lot better than I thought it was, and it has been very challenging trying to keep up with the other athletes. It also feels a little confidence crushing when everyone is lapping you.

However, I have seen a lot of improvement in only one week. It is certainly all about consistently training hard and ensuring that you recover correctly by incorporating rest days and recovery runs into your schedule. I have now swapped out a few strength and conditioning sessions for recovery runs, as I now have the fitness to be able to run the day after a hard training.

My coach is completely focused on endurance for the next six months and tempo runs have become a very prominent part of my training. I had never really focused on tempos before, and I have been finding them so much more difficult than I expected. Keeping up a comfortably hard pace for 5/6 miles is so hard, especially with all of the hills where I live!

I think the hardest part about tempos is the mental aspect, knowing that you need to maintain the pace for so long. I am hoping that the tempos will start getting easier because they are absolutely brutal!

Although I do post a lot about the positive side of the sport and all of the successes, it is nice to know that nobody is perfect and that some days are going to be a lot harder than others. It is all about consistently training hard, so get out tomorrow and crush the next workout. If you need rest, take it though, listen and trust your body to tell you what it needs.

I have a 5K time trial on Monday which will certainly test my body. At least I will be able to compare my current fitness to my fitness in a couple of months and this will really boost my confidence for races.

“No pain, no gain. Embrace the difficulty, the excruciating pain because it is making you a better runner. You would rather experience pain, than lose, wouldn’t you?”

Lots of love,

Florence

My New Summer Job and Moving onto A-levels

Hi Runners! Welcome to another blog. A lot has been happening recently. It feels like quarantine was definitely ‘the calm before the storm’, but in a very good way. Funnily enough, everything seems to be slotting into place after a very uncertain start to the year. It is funny how life works in mysterious ways.

This blog is more based on the non-running side of life, a side that I usually don’t talk about very often. This is because during peak season I don’t usually focus a lot of time on my social life because I am determined to achieve my goals and desired race times. But, now that most races have been cancelled this year, I have decided that it is finally time to get a job.

My first ever job and I feel very sophisticated:) I am working at a local beach cafe, and although it sounds very low-key, the job requires a lot of energy. The beaches are absolutely packed, so the days are always very very busy. I have been working there for about three days now, and I have really enjoyed trying something new and different. I have also met some lovely people, and a few who might be going to my new school so that is an extra bonus!

Also, yesterday my IGCSE results came through. I’m not going to post my results, but I am very very happy considering the fact that we didn’t get the chance to take the exams and I think they were very very close to what I would have achieved. Although I didn’t realise it, it feels like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders and I can finally start A-level revision knowing that I have the grades required to take English Lit., History and Spanish at A-level.

It has been a very very different kind of year, but I am so so happy that my hard work has paid off. I was a little bit worried about how my results would pan out whilst juggling running at a national level, but I managed to pull through. Not everything is based on your grades, but I am happy that I managed to achieve what I wanted.

A more running specific blog will be up very soon!

Lots of love,

Florence

Very Very Exciting Announcement!!! – Future Colleges?

Hi Runners! So, you are probably wondering what I mean by today’s title. This is not clickbait, today’s announcement is VERY VERY exciting!

Are you ready? 3,2,1…

I have joined an American college scholarship agency!!! They are going to be helping me over the next two years to gain an academic and athletic scholarship to a college in the USA. The agency is called ‘College Sports America’, and I am so so excited to start working with them towards my goals.

Now, along with my A-level study and my usual training, I will also be studying for the SAT and ACT, which are the exams required to be eligible for an American college.

I contacted CSA on Instagram about a month ago to ask about how the college process works and they replied the next day asking to phone me about the details. They advised me to start the process as soon as possible to be able to start SAT preparation and send my profile off to college coaches. It’s crazy how quickly plans change and new opportunities arise!

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I am mainly focused on Division 1 Colleges, but this means that I need to lower my 800m time to around 2:10 and my 1500m time to 4:30. Lately, I have been lacking a bit of motivation as it has been quite difficult building my fitness from the bottom again, but this has inspired me as I now have new goals and aims.

If you want to know more about recruiting times: https://athleticsrecruiting.com/trackandfieldrecruitingstandards.html

I have started researching my top five colleges, but these could completely change over the next few years as I will hopefully be contacted by different colleges as my times decrease. I will also have the chance to visit college campuses. I could prefer the atmosphere of one college to the other, or I could favour the coaching style and team values of another college. It will all depend on how I progress over the next two years.

I started the process a few days ago, and I am now focused on building my profile which will then be sent off to American coaches. Regarding SAT’s, I will hopefully be taking the exam in either December or March, depending on how I am finding the course. I will be studying on Khan academy around three times a week, fitting the learning into my training and A-levels timetable.

I am beyond excited for the next two years, and I cannot wait to see where my academics and running times progress. Races might be postponed till next year, but training does not stop. I will be so ready to lower my times and achieve PB’s in 2021!

Lots of love,

Florence 😉

Back To Training and My Focus on Recovery

Hi Runners! Welcome back to Runner Diaries. I apologise for not posting recently, I have been spending the last few weeks travelling and slowly upping my trainings again. After my physio appointment around two weeks ago, which showed that my knee pains were due to muscle tightness, I have been cleared to run!

The first few sessions were slow and unsteady. I had lost quite a lot of confidence in my own body and was nervous that the pain would return in my knees. There was very limited pain when I started training again, but sometimes there would be a dull ache in my left knee when I went up and down stairs.

The main change for me was my post-run recovery process. I had always focused a lot of my time on stretching before my sessions, but I had always neglected the recovery after my runs, as I was always rushing to get home for schoolwork, or dinner.

I changed two main things:

  1. I stopped rolling before workouts. Apparently, this doesn’t achieve anything as your muscles are not warmed up. Instead, I swapped rolling for dynamic stretches. As I was only doing slow runs for around 15-20 minutes at 9 min/mile pace, I would spend the first half an hour of my session focusing on properly warming up. I chose to run on the beach, during low-tide, when the terrain would be smooth. To slowly increase my heart rate, I would walk one length of the beach (around 700m), and then I would do dynamic drills for around 20 minutes (leg swings, drills, etc…). Then, I would jog another length of the beach, and then stop to do static stretches. This helped me to gain more confidence in my knee strength once more, and made sure that I was improving my muscle fibres and coordination by doing dynamic drills.
  1. After my run, my recovery became the most important aspect. If I didn’t recover enough, I wouldn’t be able to perform again the next day. I would walk home and then start rolling. For my calves, I loosened the muscles by using the hard bone on the top of my knee. Honestly, the first time I did this, it hurt so much, but over time it has improved so much and there is barely any pain anymore. For my hamstrings, I used a boule ball (like the ones you use on the beach), and I would sit on it and roll out my hamstring. My left leg would always hurt more than the right! I used a regular foam roller for my quads, making sure that I rolled as slowly as possible. I would also use the boule for my glutes and my TFL. The pain is pretty horrendous the first time, but with consistency, it is so so much better.

I am currently in Spain, after travelling from England a few days ago and I am currently focused on 5/6 mile tempo runs, 1 hour long runs, strength and conditioning sessions and a few track sessions per week. The aim is to keep the sessions simple, and slowly get fitter before moving onto higher volumes and increased qualities of the trainings.

The track sessions are 300m/400m reps with very little recovery, as I am building up my endurance base. As there are obviously no races for the time being, I can enjoy the time I spend running, without having to rush or focus on having to get to other places.

As I am currently not in my fittest state, it is very hard not to get overwhelmed and stressed thinking about the future and the lack of races. I am not under any pressure, but the fact that I am starting from scratch in almost every area of my life can be a little overwhelming. Starting a new school, a new running club, meeting new people, thinking about universities and the future are very scary prospects, but the experiences I will gain will be incredible. I am focusing on the present and enjoying the time I can spend running and reminiscing about past memories as we pack up the house.

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The 2nd Edition of the Weekly Newsletter will be up very soon, and the next blog will mainly be focused on adjusting to the Spanish heat and adapting to the post-pandemic changes!

Lots of love,

Florence 😉

Injury Recovery Tip 6: Nutrition, Protein and Why I Stopped being Vegetarian

Tip 6: Nutrition and Protein

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When I read articles, I usually skip the nutrition sections because I am very fortunate to have a family that eats very healthily, but after speaking to my physio, I realised that I needed to be eating more protein. She advised me to buy protein powder, which I hadn’t bought yet, and this is because I have had a strange experience with protein powders in the past. In my first year of running, whilst living in Spain, I went to a shop to buy protein powder. Now, what I didn’t realise was that the protein powder was actually for weight lifters and body builders, so well, I quickly stopped taking it. The moral of the story is to research your protein powders, or go to a nearby health store and ask them for their advice or you might be taking something which isn’t suitable for your body!

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I bought this protein powder from Holland & Barrett, a health food shop in the UK: https://www.hollandandbarrett.com/shop/product/usn-100-whey-protein-powder-chocolate-60084297 The assistant in the shop was super helpful and recommended a few to choose from. He also gave me scientific reasons why each was suitable for me, so make sure you have someone who knows what they are talking about!

But, the most important reason why I bought protein powder was because you need to be eating more protein when injured. Why? Because when you are injured, your body is trying to repair your injured area, and the protein helps the process. I completely understand that running is seen as a pretty simply sport because you barely need any equipment, but there are so many other aspects that will help you recover faster and more efficiently and protein powder is one of these!

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I bought the chocolate-flavoured powder, and when I first started incorporating the protein powder into my food, it honestly tasted disgusting. I was really put off by the taste. I tried it for the first time in yoghurt (honestly I’m not sure what I was thinking), and it just tasted horrible, so do not make the same mistake I did. 

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Then, I started putting a scoop of it in my porridge in the morning and it still tasted really dry and tasteless, so again, the protein powder taste testing, same as the stretching and strength training, was a lot of trial and error. It took me many many attempts to see how I preferred my protein powder. 

So now, I only eat it in porridge. I tried it in water and milk and yoghurt and it was awful, so now I have figured out how I like it best. I love to add plenty of milk to the porridge, and I always add toppings. My favourites are:

  • Dried banana chips
  • Chia jam
  • Honey
  • Peanut Butter (Organic)
  • Banana
  • Strawberries
  • Linseed Mix – Easy to buy in local supermarket and HIGH IN PROTEIN!!!
  • Coconut Flakes

Vegetarian turned Meat-Eater:

So, a little bit about my past. My parents brought me up as a vegetarian, and until May of 2019, I had never tried a piece of meat. However, once I started running competitively, I noticed how tired I would be after trainings. It was difficult to recovery and I would struggle to stay awake at school.

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In the summer of last year, my family and I decided that I would start introducing chicken into my meals. I was really unsure whether it was the right decision because I had spent the first 14 years of my life vegetarian, but when I started eating chicken, I almost immediately felt a change. I had a lot more energy, and my race times were improving. I could also execute trainings with more speed and efficiency and I felt more revived.

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The changes were incredible to see, but in the winter of 2019, my training stepped up again. I decided to introduce beef into my diet to see what would happen and the results were even better than the chicken.

I completely understand that there are vegan athletes who can perform at a very high level, but eating meat was truly the best decision for me.

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I recommend experimenting with your diet, but definitely avoid doing it during the peak of the season. It took quite a while to figure out what was best for my body, but once you get there, you will notice such a change in your overall training and racing performance. It’s exactly like training, stay patient and consistent!!!

Lots of love,

Florence 😉