Monday, August 1, 2011

On Becoming a Runner...

Many times over the last few months I've been approached by friends asking for my tips on "how to start running."  I guess I'm more approachable on this topic most of us...I'm not a runner.  I'm not one of those people who has "run their whole life."  As much as I loved the idea of being a runner all my life, the bottom line is that 5 years ago I could barely run to my mailbox.  Yet, somehow, miraculously, 18 months ago while 4 months pregnant, I managed to finish a marathon.  I touched on this same question a few months ago, but decided that, since I can't vacuum, carry laundry, or do handstands, I'll go more into detail. 

I think there's many factors that made my journey successful.
1.  Self empowerment.  I literally woke up one day and said, "Today I will start running and I will run a 5K in 3 months"  I know that sounds like the most obvious thing in the world, but it's so important to believe in ourselves and set the bar high.  Yes, I was quite honestly unable to run to the end of my street without huffing and puffing.  Merely by BELIEVING  in yourself and then having the ability to see long range are key.  Because you will run today, and tomorrow morning you will hurt.  You will not want to get out of bed, let alone go for a run.  That's when you need to close your eyes and picture yourself crossing that finish line 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 12 months from now.  And you need to do that E.V.E.R.Y.D.A.Y

2.  I believe 100% in Couch 2 5K.  Best. Beginner. Plan. Ever.  The best part about this plan is the ability to customize it to your needs.  I needed to repeat week #1 twice.  Yet, by week 3, I was running 5 days a week.  Use it as your MINIMUM.  Push yourself.  Repeat weeks.  Double up.  But that is your BASE. 

3.  Find yourself a 5k that's about 8 weeks after your first C25K run.  Pay for it.  Follow the program.
4.  Collective empowerment.  Probably the most fortunate situation for me was that I am surrounded by runners.  My dad.  My best friend.  My neighbors were just starting out as runners.  Another very good friend and neighbor has always been a runner.  If you're not lucky in that department, put your feeders out to see who you may know that runs, or has an interest in it.  There's accountability, experience, advice, and a built in whining partner when you find that person (people).
5.  Created my own running community.  I was able to surround myself with "running" in ways other than just face time.  Subscribed to magazines like Runners' World, Women's Running.  "Like" running advocates, such as Runner's World, Cool Running,, Nike, Champion, and my local running clubs on Facebook.  I also Googled and subscribed to real running bloggers.

6.  I joined my local running club.  They held regular training runs on Saturday mornings and weekday evenings and hosted social runs where I was able to meet new runner friends.  They also sent regular e-mails and snail mail that kept me "in the mind frame".  You can find a collection of clubs on this site. Social runs are a lot of fun.  Word to the wise...don't be afraid that you aren't a runner.  Most of these clubs are geared towards helping you BECOME one.  More than likely, you won't be the slowest or the least fit out there.
7.  Learn to listen to and advocate for your body.  It wasn't as easy as putting on my sneakers every day and committing to the run.  Because shortly after my first 5 k, my knees started to fall apart.  That's when I met my orthopedist, who connected me with a fantastic PT.  From there, I began seeing my chiropractor regularly, who is the biggest factor in my ability to run.  The point is, KNOW when something isn't right and ASK questions.  When you go to your doctor and they tell you to stop running...question that.  Perhaps it's a matter of PT.  Or a Chiro.  Acupuncture.  Perhaps, afterall, running is too much for your bad joints.  But for so many of us, it's really a matter of an out of whack muscle or weak set of other muscles.  Being in tune with your body helps this.
8.  Hydrate.  Fo' Rizzle.  A lot.  Make friends with water. 
9.  You know I can't not say it.  S H O E S.  The shoes make the run.  Seriously.  Do not underestimate it.  Do not go to Dick's and buy the prettiest pair you see.  Get yourself to a local running shoe store and be fitted, properly. On that note, don't screw around with any of your running equipment.  Ladies, get a GOOD bra to ensure no jiggle.  Running clothes are to be non-cotton.  Socks, too.  Find yourself getting blisters or chafing?  Meet Glide.  Don't run uncomfortable. 

10.  Celebrate!  When you first run one whole mile, pat yourself on the back.  That second mile deserves a high five.  And that third mile, which, I found to be the hardest achievement, that shows that you rock!  When you complete that first 5k, have yourself a party! Take pictures.  Display them!  It's a huge accomplishment! 

Now...I'm going to be needing to repeat all 10 steps once I'm back in the game after rehab.  Join along with me!