Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Learning to run

Or for me, the title should probably have a "Again" after it. I've run quite a few races before, but I easily fall out of shape after time off. It's been months since I've run regularly, so I'm starting at the beginning - again. :-)

I thought it might be helpful to share beginner tips, for those of you who are interested in running. Here are the top things I've learned since I started running.

  1. Take it slow(ly)! When I first started running, I could only do 1/4 of a mile. I set small goals for myself & eventually built up to 1 mile, 2 miles, 3 miles, etc.
  2. Set a goal, like a race! Give yourself plenty of time to train & prepare. I would recommend a 5K for a starter race. They are everywhere, and completing a 5k (even for a beginner runner) is within range.
  3. Note your improvements. If you stick with it, you will improve. Your cardiovascular fitness will allow you to push yourself harder & farther. I personally prefer starting out my running on the treadmill, so I can note the time and distance of my run (run 1/3 of a mile at 6.0 mph, then walk 1/2 a mile at 4.2 mph, etc) Noting these details allows you to view your progress over time, which is exciting! I still remember when I broke my own 4.0 mile pace time - it was the 4th of July, I was at the beach, & it was a gorgeous day along the ocean. :-)
  4. Don't eat or drink right before you run. This sounds obvious, but a lot of people forget in a hurry to get out the door right after breakfast, or whatever. For me, two hours is the right sweet spot for food, and about 90 minutes for liquids. Your body will vary, so it will take some experimentation to get it right.
  5. Speaking of liquids, if you're anything like me, you'll really want to avoid before runs. Otherwise, being of a certain age, and a mother of two kids  . . . well, there are consequences to drinking too soon before running. ;-)
  6. Keep at it! I promise, it gets SO much easier. Right now, I'm in a very ugly phase where all of the running is hard, because I'm so out of shape. But, I know from past experience that it gets easier.
  7. The endorphins feel amazing. Seriously. Best workout high ever. I feel amazing after a great run.
  8. Running clears your head, like nothing I've ever experienced. I've come up with the best solutions to tricky problems while running. It's a great way to release stress & let your mind think clearly.
  9. Music! I must have music when I run. Others prefer silence, but I need the motivation - especially on longer runs. I download songs to a clip on MP3 player, and I've had two terrible moments with it. Once, in some weird error, the only song on my player was Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call me Maybe". Now, that alone is bad enough, but it was a 12 mile run, and that song was on repeat. It was the worst. I think M was playing an evil joke on me. Another time, I unclipped my MP3 player before all of the songs were done syncing (yes, I'm impatient like that) & I had only two songs for a 14 mile run.. . . Pitbull, "International Love" and a Nicki Minaj song that I've since blocked from memory. It was a very, very long run. ;-)
  10. Running is about your own progress. It's not about beating someone else, or competing. It's about improving your own time or distance, or just making it easier. Try to keep that in mind when you see the insanely fast people passing you. 
  11. Wear the right gear. You don't need expensive stuff, but a good sports bra, nonchafing pants/shorts and shirt, plus decent socks and running shoes. If you're running for a longer distance, have any areas that might rub together, or are running in hot temperatures, I highly recommend Body Glide. It's goes on like a deodorant, but it is clear. It will keep your body from chafing. I only wear it if I'm going out for 6+ miles, but it's a lifesaver.
  12. Also, running will make you hungry. If you are also trying to lose weight, you'll need to track your calories & eat enough to ensure you're fueling yourself, without erasing all of the calorie burning from the running.
  13. Cross train. Seriously, you can't/shouldn't run every day, especially as a beginner. I prefer walking, swimming, biking, or the elliptical on non-running days.
  14. Do weight bearing exercises. Overall core strength will make the running easier. Especially on your back - I find this to be a bigger problem as I get older.
  15. Take rests between runs. It's a lot of effort, and your body needs to recover. 

That's all I can think of. I'm not an expert (of any kind), but running is one of my favorite things to do. It's also extremely hard to start again, but I know it's worth it. I run because it helps me maintain a healthy weight, makes me feel good, keeps me in shape, and makes me feel like an athlete.

Here's photographic evidence - the end of a 12 mile run (at the beach) & I'm thrilled. Look at that smile! (This is from a year or so ago).

Do you have any secret fitness goals? Maybe some that you're not even admitting to yourself? I'll admit that I have a bucket list, and secret goal to run a marathon before I turn 40. I have no idea if it's in the realm of possibility, but I just signed up to run a half marathon with a friend in May. That's phase one. I'd really like to consider the idea of pushing myself, and trying a marathon. Sometimes, just thinking about your goal is helpful. I'm not sure what I'm afraid of, other than failure. Which, is admittedly pretty scary, right? 

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