Wednesday, April 30, 2008

HELPFUL

I'm no expert, but after six months of training, I began to pick up on a few things that made my life easier when running. Some of them I learned through my wonderful coach, team and unofficial mentor, and others I just figured out on my own. So since several of you have messaged me and said I have "inspired you" to try running (I put that in quotes because I don't think I'm any kind of inspiration, but thanks for saying it), I thought I'd share some of what I learned along the way.

1. Find a running buddy. That was one of the benefits of joining Team in Training: I had several running buddies on my Saturday morning runs. And during the week, I had a friend that would go with me. Sometimes early, sometimes late; we even ran at 10 p.m. a few times. And after running with the same person for a while, you find a pace you're both comfortable at, learn what each of you are capable of, and if either of you start to slip or get lazy (and by "if either of you" I mean "when I"), then you have someone to encourage you to stay strong and keep going (and who also knows what tactics/words work to get you to do just that). If you're married, congratulations — you've got a running buddy.

2. This may sound weird, but when I would wash all my makeup off before I ran, I felt better. Something about having my foundation, etc., on while sweating made me feel so disgusting that it would distract me. So I started taking it all off before I ran and got sweaty, and it made a difference. Weird but true.

3. Once you start running 5 and 6 miles, you'll want to try a supplement of some kind. I went to the running store (although I later found Target has some of this stuff, too) and bought sport beans, gels, shot blocks, bars, etc. I had to experiment with all of them to find what worked for me but eventually I found it: Accel Gel. Try it all at least once and find what works for you. Of course, try it without this stuff and see if that works too. Arguably these things (supplements, meals) can be more of a mental crutch than a physical one, but do whatever works.

4. Someone introduced me to Gmap-Pedometer.com and it has been the most helpful thing (second to my running buddy). I don't always want to drive somewhere to go run, so using that web site, I could map out a path on my own through my neighborhood, starting at my front door. You can save the paths so you can come back to them again later. The hard part for me was remembering the path and not getting lost...

6. Speaking of paths, if I am running four miles one day, I like to run away from my house for two miles, and then turn around and come home along the same path. This is a personal preference but rather than running a giant circle on many different streets, I just find a place that's 2 miles away, run to it and then run back (like this as opposed to this). That way I know how far I have to go and can't take any shortcuts. That is the technique we use on our group runs. Once you're already four or five miles away from your car/house, you don't have much of a choice but to run back to it. And to do the same thing during the week, I use the aforementioned Gmap-Pedometer.

7. I bought my running shoes from a smaller store that sells only running gear as opposed to a chain like Dick's or Academy. While I don't know those stores' return policy, when my doctor ordered new shoes three months after I'd already been wearing my Nikes, Fleet Feet took them back and spent an hour with me finding a replacement pair that worked. I would suggest starting at a place like that, not only for the expertise but so if a month or two months into running your shoes feel funny, or your legs start reacting, you can do the same thing. Those larger stores may take them back but I'm glad I bought mine where I did.

8. When I started running, I couldn't run a mile without stopping to walk. But after sticking with it, I was able to run 2 miles. Then 3 miles. But then once I started upping the weekend mileage on the group runs, those 2 and 3 mile runs got harder again. I finally was told that I wasn't having setbacks, my body was just getting accustomed to longer runs and therefore saving energy. When I started running 6 and 8 miles, it took me a while to warm up and miles 1 and 2 were usually the hardest. Don't feel like you're having a setback if the same thing happens to you. It's a good thing when it gets hard again. Push through it.

9. Not everything about running has to be expensive. It can definitely be an investment, but like I said, I eventually found the energy supplement aisle at Target, and in January or so I found a pack of 5 pair of Under Armor socks (socks that aren't cotton = awesome) at TJ Maxx for $7. I wouldn't scrimp on shoes, but find ways to save with the other things.

10. If at first you don't succeed, try try again. I tried running in college; I didn't like it. I tried running on a treadmill; It hurt like crap. But for whatever reason, when I just forced myself to run and learn to like it, I did. Having a good playlist to distract me helped, but it took a while. Weeks, in fact. I wasn't good and I was slow and awkward and was embarrassed. But one day I noticed the first mile was little easier. Then the second mile was a little easier. And before I knew it, I had run four miles. It may take weeks. But just keep going, and who knows - maybe you'll be running half marathons soon, too.

Again, please don't mistake any of those suggestions for arrogance or expertise. I am still learning about running. I am not a pro. I'm just sharing what worked (and didn't work) for me, and I hope you will share your tips as well.

The bottom line: If I can do this, any one of you can. In fact that's how my TNT coach got started. She was a Jenny Craig counselor and one of her clients shared that she was going to train for a half marathon, to which my coach thought, "Well if she can do it, I can do it." Ten years later, she's run more than 25 marathons, including a few Ironman races. If this non-running, shin-splint prone, goal-seeking wimp can do it, so can you!

3 comments:

  1. You are so right on it's not even funny. I totally agree with everything you said, especially about the running buddy and the shoes. You can't scrimp on your shoes and you can't wear cotton socks. Personally, I haven't tried taking my makeup off...guess I'd have to put some on first!!!
    You keep it goin' girl.
    Larry A.

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  2. Go my little teabag: the hotter the water, the stronger you are!
    I remember your friend Ashley Page coming over after her cross country runs and how depleted she looked for the next few hours! We both thought she had to be desperate for entertainment...now you understand her runner's high! Glad that is your drug of choice!(I will stick to my walkers' high)
    Yo' mama

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  3. congratulations on all the running ... i'm almost inspired enough to want to run ... but not quite yet. I am inspired, however, to go to milo's right now. coming to cashville for steeplechase

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