I am not one of those natural runner types. Not by a longshot.
My legs are not long and lanky. My frame is not twiggy or gazelle-like. When I run, I don’t like one of those running gods or godesses you see in the Olympics. I instead resemble someone who likes they’re about to keel over and pass out. Either that, or a sweaty, red tomato. Take your pick.
It’s not the most attractive thing, but you know what? I don’t care. I shuffle along with my head held high. With frizz a-flying and brow a-sweating, I run and run and run. By the end, I feel empowered and strong.
I love to run. I honestly do. I might not look good while doing it, but on the inside, I’m having a ball. I’m dancing my little heart out on the inside when running.
Not to say that I ALWAYS love to run. Sometimes, I’d rather go to the dentist and have a tooth pulled than take a run. But over the past year or so, I’ve developed a newfound appreciation for running. In fact, as some of you might know, I’ve become so enamored with running that I’m going to run a marathon in the fall.
If you would have told me last year that I would be running a marathon within the next year, I would have laughed in your face. My dad has trainined for five marathons, and I always wondered what the hell was possessing him to drag himself out of bed at an ungodly morning hour on the weekends, and go run for three hours. It just seemed so nutty to me. Why put yourself through that kind of torture unnecessarily? How abusrd! I remember telling a few of my friends that “I had no desire whatsoever to run a marathon.” Well obviously, things changed. I changed. I’ve run two half marathons in the past year, and will begin training for the full in a few weeks.
So how did this distance running aversion transform into a distance running love?
I shall tell you, and give you some tips for beginning your own love affair with long distance running.
For those of you who are absolute running newbies, the key thing is to start slow! Build up a mileage base before you attempt a half marathon or marathon otherwise you might end up with an injury. I don’t want that sort of thing happening to any of you burgeoning running goddesses, so just it take it nice and slow until you’ve built up your endurance. You should be comfortable running at least 3-4 miles before you commit to a half.
I would also recommend that you buy some shoes specifically designed for running! Your joints will thank you. Trust me. I am a severe pronator, so I need a shoe specifically designed to compensate for that motion. Without them, I would injure myself faster than you can say “Where’s the nearest physical therapist?”. Brooks and Asics are great brands that I’ve found success with in the past, but each person is different. When you head to the store, try to go to a running store where they can analyze your gait on the treadmill. That will ensure that you find a pair that is perfect for you!
During my distance running aversion days, I generally ran between 3-5 miles whenever I took a trot. But what pushed me over the edge? What made me commit to the half?
Ultimately, I think that what changed was my attitude about running. During college, I looked at running as an easy way to burn 400-500 calories in a short amount of time. Now, I look at it as a physical challenge. While running is still an easy way to burn calories and stay in-shape, it has become so much more than that for me. I look at it as a a means to feeling strong and happy. It’s a means of empowering myself and pushing myself to heights I didn’t realize I could reach!
Running should not be a punishment. It should be fun! It should make you feel strong and amazing! If it doesn’t, then I suggest you find some other activity that does make you feel this way. Not everyone is meant to be a runner, so if something else really spins your beanie, go do that instead. You’ll be all the happier for it.
If you STILL feel the itch to run, take the plunge and register for a race. Just do it, as the Nike commericals would say.
Once you’ve signed up for the race, here are some tips for making race day fun rather than painful:
- Find a plan! To successfully run 13 miles without injuring yourself, you need to build up your mileage over a period of 7-10 weeks. This means that there needs to be a slow increase in your long run mileage over that period. I know that it helps me if I’m able to follow an organized plan. A plan provides the structure I need to stay on track, and it makes me less likely to skip worouts. There are tons of plans online for half marathon or marathon training. You might want to check out Jeff Galloway’s plans or anything from Runner’s World.
- Know that it’s OKAY to go slow! I am a slow runner, and will probably always be slow. On good days, I run 10 minute miles. On bad days, I go even slower…but being slow doesn’t mean you can’t finish the distance. I am hear to tell you that you can! Just take each run as slowly as you need to in order to be able to finish the distance. It’s okay to walk as well. Many of Jeff Galloway’s plans advocate a combination of running and walking as a means of injury prevention. I think this technique is a great way for newbie long distance runners to ease their way into long runs.
- Fuel and hydrate properly. If you’re going to be running for longer than sixty minutes, it’s a good idea to eat a small snack consisting of fast-absorbing carbohydrates beforehand. This will give you lasting energy for the run. You also want to make sure that you bring water and/or a sports drink along with you. I use a fuel belt, but I’ve seen many runners using Camelbaks as well. Choose whichever one feels more comfortable for you. Just make sure that you have some way to hydrate yourself along the run. I generally fill up half of my fuel belt containers with water and the other half with sports drink, so I am able to replenish my electrolytes throughout the run.
- If you’re going longer than about 7-8 miles or so, then you’ll need to think about refueling during the run with a fast-absorbing fuel source (i.e. something that is mostly sugar). I have used Medjool dates to great success during my half marathon training. Generally, I’ll have one around mile 4 and another around mile 7 for an energy push. Gels are popular with most runners as well. I’ve never had any, but I will probably be experimenting with them during my marathon training. I’ll keep you updated on my findings.
- Once you finish your long run, it’s important to eat something with a 3:1 carbs to protein ratio to promote optimal muscle recovery! You should eat this within 30-60 minutes after finishing your run. My favorite post-run snack is a green smoothie with added protein powder! It replenishes loads of nutrients that I lost during the run, and it is quickly absorbed into my muscles. Definitely try it out.
- Stretch and foamroll! To avoid serious aches and pains in the days following your long run, it’s important to stretch once you finish. I also own a foamroller, which is perhaps the greatest invention since sliced bread. I think foamrolling is a great addition to your stretching routine because it lets you give yourself a deep tissue massage. By laying your body across the foam roller, you use your own body weight to place pressure on the knots in your legs, thus prompting their relase. It’s especially great for working out hard-to-stretch trouble areas like the IT band!
- Have fun! Again, this should be fun. Listen to music while you run. Take in the scenery. Enjoy being outside in the sunshine. Long runs are a great time for being alone with your thoughts. It’s also a great time to enjoy the company of a running buddy! Having someone to chat with can make the time fly by much faster.
I’m going to leave you with this ridiculous picture of me laughing my fool head off after finishing the Country Music Half Marathon in Nashville. See, running should make you laugh! It should make you positively gleeful, even! It should be fun, and above all, it should make you feel amazing, both inside and out!
Now, get out there and run!
Release your inner running goddess unto the world, and be happy!
QUESTION: What’s your favorite part about running? Least favorite?