Remember that line in Finding Nemo…Dory (now there was an optimist!) is instructing Marlin on what to do when everything seems to be going wrong. Her solution (appropriate given she is a cartoon fish): “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.” My advice to would-be-runners: “Just keep running, just keep running.”
I thought I’d follow-up on last weeks exercise-related post, and chat more specifically about running, since I’ve been dabbling with it for nearly a year. Technically, I’m a pseudo-runner. Despite running relatively consistently for the past 8 months, I still admit to feeling some dread with each and every run. I’m not a natural runner – I look and feel awkward much of the time – and despite my determination to continue, don’t ever see myself making great gains in distance (unlike my sister who just ran two half-marathons in under a month – c.r.a.z.y).
So if I hate it so much – why run? It really started more as a competition with myself. See, I’ve started this whole running thing before – even made a “go” of it for several months during my undergrad. But I just never managed to stick with it. I ran a few times before I was married, and after Abby came along we actually started C25K, but I only made it to the second week. As funny as this may sound: I wanted to run to prove to myself that I could run. I was desperate to start losing some of the “baby” weight, and knew exercise would be an important component. Running seemed like a logical part of the puzzle.
Last week I did manage a personal best – about 5.5 km (with the last km being uphill). It only (sarcasm is implied) took me nine long months to get that far! So this is a post to encourage non-runners out there, that if I can do it…really, anyone else can to.
A few things I’ve learned along the way (with a bit of repetition from last week).
1. Start with walking. I couldn’t run to the end of the driveway without getting winded, so clearly my lungs needed to adjust to more vigorous exercise. We started walking (as a family) around a 7 km loop at least once per day. I don’t think the distance matters as much as a) speed (getting the heart rate pumping) and b) difficulty (try to incorporate some hills into your route)
2. Use a training tool. I mentioned back here using, and loving, the C25K app. This running program is designed to get you running a 5K in about 9 weeks. The distances get incrementally longer (the first week you run 60 sec segments; the second 90 sec etc.,). I started off in BAD shape. I literally thought I was going to die the first run of my second week. Looking back, that was definitely the hardest week, which is laughable to me now considering I only had a run 90 sec at a time! A few words of advice re. the C25K program:
a) Move at your own pace. The program is designed for 3 runs/week, before moving on to a more advanced “level.” Some times I repeated a week (I think I maxed at 5 runs of a particular segment), and I think this is a better alternative to pushing too far too soon.
b) Use the app! By using the app, you don’t have to worry about calculating times on your own. Audio prompts will let you know when to run, walk, cool down, and other important milestones (half-way point; 1-minute until the workout is complete).
3. Consider your route. For the first few weeks I used a simple route; I ran back and forth along a straight stretch of road. I KNOW I looked ridiculous just looping back and forth along the same patch of sidewalk over and over and over again, but I found it comforting to a) stay close to home b) get familiar with landmarks that helped me gauge my pace etc., After I became more comfortable with running, I started to vary my route, although still prefer to do a specific route so I can mark distance etc., Think about hills, where you’ll end up (and how far it will be to trek back to home!). Don’t bite off more than you can chew. While it is great to push oneself, there is a fine line when going too fast with the program and getting discouraged/quitting when you’re overwhelmed.
4. Don’t be afraid to look silly. If you’re really afraid of what people will think (or if you’re embarrassed because the elderly gentleman hobbling along on a cane can outpace you while you’re running) consider an obscure route, or get outside at odd hours (early in the morning/later in the evening).
5. Dress appropriately. I never invested in an armband for my iPhone, so I usually just hooked it under my shirt. That worked fine until my headphones started to fray. And frayed wires, mixed with sweat create shocks. I was terrified (from the shock – both physical and emotional, not from the pain) the first time I was “electrocuted.” There are lots of great options, including clip-on MP3 players, armbands, or if you decide to skip C25K, running without any accompaniment.
I also tried to wear: a) socks that wouldn’t slip down – as trite as this sounds, it can be the difference between a good run, and a bad run b) good sneakers and c) comfortable shirts that weren’t too baggy…and if long-sleeved, that could be rolled up as the run progressed. I found if I looked and felt semi-presentable in my running garb, I felt more enthusiastic about the run in general.
6. Stay on top of your health. I visit the chiropractor regularly, replace worn shoes promptly, drink LOTS of water, and take the time to cool down after runs (stretching is more important at the end than at the beginning…be careful about stretching cold muscles, so the best warmup is actually usually a brisk 5-minute walk or quick jog).
Linking up with The Domestic Wannabe for Move It Mondays