On Running: Part Three

So now you’ve weighed the good and the bad about running, and you’ve decided to give it a go, despite the cons.  Excellent!  To help you, I’ve compiled a list of my general advice for running.  It’s also a little “do as I say, not as I do” since I know I should do some of these things and unfortunately don’t…  But obviously, no one is going to throw you in jail if you ignore my suggestions.  They’re more guidelines, really.

  • Download C25K: Couch to 5k is a really great training podcast for getting yourself to “runner.”  Okay, I’ll admit…  The music gets a little old.  But it’s only six weeks, three days a week.  You only need to listen to the music 18 times.  Totally doable.
  • Read Run Your Butt Off: This gives you a lot of the same timing information as couch to 5k.  If you’d rather not listen to a podcast, and you trust yourself keep track of time, then only get this book.  But I do recommend both.  Run Your Butt Off throws in inspiration and nutrition on top of the running advice.  It’s a very fast read, I finished it in a couple days.  If you purchase the book, there are diary pages in the back to help you keep track of your progress.
  • Run outside whenever possible:  The only time I run on a treadmill is when I travel.  I might consider getting a gym membership this winter, not because the cold scares me, but because of the limited daylight hours.  Otherwise, though, I stick to running outdoors.  It’s always really lovely to see physical progress of distance traveled, not to mention all the interesting sights you can see.
  • Warm up before, stretch afterward: Never stretch cold muscles; you’ll do more harm than good.  I warm up by walking for five minutes before I run.  Some people have very complicated warm up workouts… I just walk.  Works for me.
  • Wear sunblock: Yeah, I know.  I don’t.  I’m terrible, and I really ought to make it a habit, but when I sweat like a pig and it drips in my eyes and mouth, it’s bad enough when it’s just sweat.  Plus I’m just forgetful.  Usually I lock the door and remember after I start my workout on Runkeeper.  At that point it just doesn’t seem worth it.  I’ll start making it a habit someday, I promise.
  • Wear sunglasses and/or a hat: This one I do, but that’s partially because I hardly even leave the house without my sunglasses.  Sensitive eyes.  I’ve worn a hat in the past, but I tend to get a little too hot with one on.  
  • Keep track of your workouts: I use two methods, RunKeeper and EarndIt.  Runkeeper uses my phone’s GPS to keep track of my route and mileage, and tells me my average pace every five minutes.  I try not to obsess over the info, but it’s thrilling to see myself improve (even if it’s only a teensy weensy bit).  Earndit used the information Runkeeper sends it and gives me points for working out.  I can use those points to buy stuff, but I will more likely use them to donate to charity.  EarndIt also hosts challenges, which, while the odds are low, are a great way to encourage getting out and exercising.  I have to run 10 miles a week to qualify, so it gives me incentive to run run run (there are other ways to earn points toward challenges to maybe make it a little less than 10 miles, but that’s what I’ve got).
  • Bring pepper spray:  This is something I occasionally do when I’m running alone.  I’m not terribly worried about needing to use it on a person (although that’s always a possibility… always be aware of your surroundings), but I do freak out sometimes that I’ll get attacked by a dog.  
  • Download this song: add it to your running playlist.  Put it at whatever part of your run you need the pick-me-up the most, whether its the end or the middle or whatever.  It’s fabulous for getting that extra push.
  • Shake things up: Any exercising can get boring if you do the exact same thing every time.  Change your route.  Do interval training.  Go for a bike ride or a swim or even just a walk.  
  • Cut yourself some slack on hot days, but get yourself out there (same goes for rain): For instance, when I got home today, the thermometer in our garden read 104ºF.  I took a 3.4 mile walk instead of running.  When the weather is flirting with 90-100 I walk or alternate running and walking (with the emphasis usually on walking).  I’m considering getting a Camelbak to free up my hands and hopefully make it a little easier to move when it’s so hot.  
  • Run more than you walk: Once you’ve gotten past the “training” phase and into the “running” phase, it’s okay to walk, but run more than you walk (unless it’s too damn hot).  When I get super tired, I run two blocks, walk one.  And I always make a point to run through the intersections–it’s just that little more of a push.  I also try to run at least half of my run before I start walking.  
  • Listen to your body, not your brain: That said, once you start walking, it’s reallyhard to keep running.  When your brain says “Let’s walk” tell it to wait until the next landmark.  When you get to that landmark, tell it to wait until the next one.  Sometimes you just want to walk.  That’s fine.  But try to wait until you haveto walk.  Your body will know far better when that point is than your brain will.  I have literally had my body stop me to a halt even when I wasn’t thinking about walking.  But once you get there, limit the walking to a very short time.
  • Drink lots of water, bring it with if you can/need to: When it’s over about 85º I bring water with me (I have a pretty high tolerance for heat).  Regardless, I try to drink a crapload of water before and after running.  If you’re dehydrated, your run will suffer, not to mention your body in general.  
  • Look to the horizon: My final tips are how to keep yourself going.  Do not look down.  By all means, be aware of what’s in front of your feet, but keep your head looking forward.  You’ll mentally pull yourself along, whereas if you look only at the ground, you’ll not only end up with hurty posture, but you’ll slow yourself down physically and emotionally.
  • Look past your destination: While you’re looking into the horizon, look as far past your destination or turn as you can.  If you think you have further to go, you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you get there sooner.  Of course, if you find this too daunting, then don’t do it.  If your mood is a little low, you may find this further distance a little depressing.  
  • Lastly, be nice to yourself: You’re doing this for yourself, not against yourself.  It’s not the end of the world if you don’t PR or if you can’t run a 5k without walking.  Be nice to yourself, and it will be rewarding.  But remember, if you’re not having fun running (I don’t mean one run out of five isn’t fun, I mean five out of five), then don’t run.  Take up biking or walking.  Join spinning or aerobics.  Join a pool or a volleyball team.  Just do whatever you can to make yourself move, and you’ll be a lot happier and healthier for it.



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