Friday, February 15, 2013

So, you want to be a runner?

Today has been a VERY exciting day so far! First, I found out that I won Running in Heel's ENERGYbits giveaway! I am SO excited to get my sample and then do a review for you on my blog :D I'm starting to feel like a real life fitness/health/life blogger (maybe a company will send me free products now? *wink wink nudge nudge*) Then, I finally conned my football coaches out of free football swag for being the tutor ! It only took me a semester and a half of bothering them, but I got them! I'm so excited to be official now :P I went for a 5.5 mile pace run (at 9:20 average pace) before I went to Target to get my clearanced Valentine's Day candy! I was a disgusting and sweaty mess, but I walked away with a package of dark chocolate M&Ms, peanut butter M&Ms, and 2 packages of Dove promises. I also got a clearanced Champion C9 long-sleeved running top, which I'm currently wearing (along with my $5 yoga shorts) because it's so comfy. I am a happy girl today.
The loot

Lately, I've been getting a lot of questions from my friends about starting to run. I figured it would be appropriate to do a post on running since I am running my first half marathon in 9 days! At this time last year, I was finishing up physical therapy for my dislocated knee cap and could barely run two miles without stopping for multiple breaks or without having any knee pain. Running 13.1 miles was not even on my radar. After I finished therapy, I started to run more and more, but I couldn't get further than 2.5 miles without taking breaks and just giving up. I thought I would never get past that distance, and while I was happy that I was able to run, I was beyond frustrated with myself. Then, a conversation I had with another runner changed my life, and it's going to be number one on my list:

So you want to be a runner: 

1) Your body can carry you further than you think; quitting is more mental than it is physical. The runner who I spoke with told me "Just set a goal in your head and don't stop until you reach that goal. Your brain is giving up before your legs and lungs are." If you're just starting out, this can be as simple as telling yourself "I'm going to run to the end of the block" or "I'm going to run for five minutes." If you've been running for a little bit but are having trouble increasing your distance, tell yourself "I'm going to run X miles." You might feel like you're dying in the beginning (the first mile is ALWAYS the worst for me), but don't give up (but don't overexert/hurt yourself). I promise you that this will change your running life.

2) Get yourself some good gear. Do NOT skimp on running shoes (they are expensive but totally worth it), get yourself some proper clothing (if you have thick thighs like me, cotton shorts are not your friend and will cause you to chafe once you start going long distances), and download an app (if you have a smart phone). If you take care of your feet, they will take care of you. Ill-fitting shoes or old shoes will give you shin splints, feet problems, and blisters, all of which are ZERO fun. I got compression shorts (moisture wicking) for my birthday this year and I LOVE them. I wear them for any distance over 6 miles because that's when I find that I start to chafe. It's important to have the correct t-shirt style too (if you wear t-shirts while you run) because sometimes your stomach/chest can chafe as well. If you want to track your distance, I'd recommend using some sort of application on your smart phone. I use MapMyRun, but Nike+ is a good app and I've heard good things about RunKeeper as well. MapMyRun talks to you at each mile, telling you your overall time, your distance, and your average pace. They also recently updated it to tell you your split times, which is super cool because the app is FREE! Amazing.

3) Just start. Don't make excuses! Find a time that works for you, and just do it! If you're not sure where to start or are afraid of burning out, there are a lot of programs out there designed to help runners get started. Couch to 5k is a popular program that is 9-weeks long and is designed to get you from the couch to a 5k (3.1 miles) race! I didn't use a program when I first started out, I kind of just went with it! I did use Hal Higdon's Novice 2 training plan to train for my half marathon; I chose Novice 2 based on what I was running before I started training, but there are multiple levels for various distances.

4) Find your motivation. Figure out why you want to run, and use that to remind yourself why you're running when you have days where you just do not feel like moving. My motivation for running began because I was looking to lose weight and I knew running would grant me more calories for more food during the day. Eating more food is a great motivator for me now, but my motivation for running has since evolved into a love for running. There are very few days where I have to convince myself  to get out of bed and go running, but when I do, I remind myself how free and how amazing I feel after I run. Running gives me more energy, allows me to think and breathe, and gives me a high like I could never explain. Being sweaty is my favorite feeling. 

5) Running gives you a sense of community. Runners ALWAYS smile and say hello to each other as they pass; they even high-five sometimes. It's nice to be a part of a community and it's a way to break the ice when you find someone else who runs. Honestly, I've had so many conversations with random people where we compare our experiences with running and give each other advice and encouragement. 

I also want you guys to know that if you run ANY distance, you're a runner. You don't have to run every day, run any races, or win any medals, but if you run, you are a runner. No one will look down on you for running a half mile or a half marathon because there are people out there who cannot do that and you should take pride in your accomplishments. Good luck to all those who are starting to run! If you have any questions, let me know!

To my readers who are runners, what would you add to this list?