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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On Running: Part Two

So, now that you’ve read all the things that kind of suck about running, I really ought to tell you the really great things about it.  And this list is actually longer, so, BONUS!

  • Vitamin D: I run outside, as should be obvious from my last post, and by running outside you get an awesome source of vitamin D.  Here’s a wiki about why it’s good for you.  I don’t understand the big words, but there’s something about bone health, blah blah blah.
  • You get a chance to explore your neighborhood: Sometimes I just like to run willy-nilly.  I’ve discovered new things I wouldn’t have seen otherwise.  And to me that’s one of the coolest parts about running.
  • You will feel good about yourself:  The flip side to the emotions of running is that the days you don’t feel bad about yourself, you’ll feel really good about yourself.  You’ll have run further than you ever have before.  You’ll have run the same distance, but in a shorter time.  You’ll notice that trying to breathe isn’t as scary as it was a month ago.  And you’ll be really, really proud of yourself, and you’ll deserve every second of that pride.
  • Stronger legs: Muscles of steel, yo.
  • Stronger heart: Your heart is a muscle.  Whenever you work your muscles more than they’re used to, they get stronger when they recover.  And a stronger heart is a very happy heart.
  • Stronger lungs: Ditto
  • If you can control your eating, you can lose fat: Oftentimes runners (or anyone who exercises) think they can go wild because they’ve worked out.  I suck at this, but I’ve been trying hard not to over-indulge (I also think this is something I’ll be working with the head shrinker on).  One thing: I said lose fat.  You might not lose weight, depending on how much fat you have to lose.  All those muscles you’re making big and strong?  Yeah, they weigh more than fat.  To date, I’ve lost at least an inch each in my waist, hips, and thighs; yet, when I was at the doctor last month, I was heavier than my last visit.  Depressing, but I know a lot of it had to do with muscle, so I’m trying not to focus on the number.  There’s a reason I measure myself instead of weighing.  I only weigh myself a couple times a year, tops.
  • Bone strength: Don’t take my word for it, hear it from the government
  • Races!: This is one of my very favorite parts of running, and for so many reasons.  Like I stated above, it gives me something new to explore.  I’ve never yet run a race somewhere I was totally familiar with.  The last race I ran had so many awesome sights I could hardly count them all.  Secondly, the camaraderie.  One thing I really love is that the faster runners often hang out at the finish line to cheer on the slower runners.  Runners are serious supportive of one another, which is one of the reasons I’m writing these lists.  Support.  Plus: t-shirts, super cool numbers bibs, treats at the end, and sometimes a souvenir chip timer.  Who doesn’t like swag?

These, I’m sure, are not the only reasons running is great.  You will have plenty of your own reasons, I’m sure.  I’d really like to hear them.  So clicky that comment button, and let me know!

On Running: Part One

As I’ve mentioned, I’d like to do a three-part series on running: The pros, the cons, and general tips for running.  I’ve been weighing my options, and I’ve decided to present the cons first (with my tips for how to overcome them).  I don’t want the last thing you read about running to be the bad parts about it, but you should know that it isn’t all rainbows and kittens.  Without further ado… The downside to running:

  • You’ll feel sore.  Probably a lot.  There are, unfortunately, very few days when I don’t feel sore.  I don’t have the answers to this, other than a foam roller does seem to make a huge difference.  It hurts while using it, and for a little bit afterward, but it seems like I have less soreness the following day.  I’m trying to get better at using it more religiously.  A caveat: I said you’ll feel sore.  If you feel actual pain--like need painkillers to get by pain–then rest, rest, rest.  Do not run through actual pain.
  • You might feel bad about yourself.  If you’re like me, you’ll have runs where you feel like you suck at it, that you’ll never get better, never lose weight, etc.  Recognize your feelings, but then shake it off as fast as you can.  Even if you never get faster than a 12 minute mile, even if you never lose a pound, you’re still doing something really good for yourself.  And if you keep pushing forward, you really can’t help but improve in some way.  That is the nature of things.
  • You’ll sweat.  It will be gross.  You’ll probably drip giant drops of sweat on your Android.  You’ll be afraid to sit down on your furniture before you shower.  Your sweat will make you stink.  But you know what?  Get over it.  As long as you’re drinking plenty of water, sweating isn’t going to hurt you.  Be proud of your sweat because it’s a sign that you’re getting out there and doing something awesome for yourself.
  • It’s a little time consuming.  You’ve gotta warm up, run, stretch, foam roller, shower… If you have somewhere to be, you’ll have to do something with your hair to make it look less like you’ve just gotten out of the shower.  All told, I make sure I have an hour or so in which to do all my running related stuff.  There are some days when I simply don’t have that hour, and then I just don’t run.  And that’s that.
  • A high percentage of runners get skin cancer.  This is a serious bummer.  This is something I should probably take far more seriously.  It’s really just a bridge I’ll cross when I get to it, I guess.  I’m a dumbass who doesn’t wear sunscreen.  I’ll kick myself later, I’m sure.  I’ll probably get angry comments, I’m sure.  But I’m a stick, and I love my mud.

That’s what I’ve got so far.  I was a little afraid that my cons list would be huge and daunting, but I really hope that it gives you a realistic, but overcomeable (I just made that a word) idea of what to “look forward to” when you run.  And now that you’ve made it through this list, the pros can be found here.

I have no idea what will come of this…

I don’t think I really care one way or the other what the outcome of this story is.  It doesn’t change the fact that it made me very happy to be part of the running “community” and also to be somewhat accepted into my actual community.  This is not one of my three posts about running, but it is a post about running.  And about life.  It’s very deep and not very deep at all.

I was out for my run today, sweating up a storm and probably very stinky.  A heavier black woman was crossing the street toward me, and when she got onto the grass next to me she started to jog.  I had earphones in and couldn’t really tell if she was mocking me or encouraging me.  And this is the point where I admit something: It is my knee jerk reaction when I’m at home that I will be treated poorly because I’m white.  The Hippy and I are decidedly the minority in our neighborhood, which is fine, but we’ve had far too many experiences of having people yell racial slurs to truly feel comfortable.

And this is the point where I say that I’ve listened to the apologists ad nauseam, and I refuse to give people of any situation a pass for being racist.  Racism is racism is racism, and nothing will change if we allow people to have different standards.  I get that the majority of black people have gotten a really raw deal in terms of chances in life.  And it’s really fucking hard to get ahead when you start out poor.  But that’s no excuse for racism.  It just isn’t.

And now back to our regularly scheduled story….

After a few seconds she yelled “Hold up! Hold up! Hold up!  I need to start running; give me your number.”  And I was still pretty taken aback, and not really sure what to make of it.  She went on, “I need to lose, like, ten pounds, and that seems like really great exercise.  And you already look really good, so don’t lose too much weight okay?  People are going to think you’re a crackhead if you lose too much weight.”  She handed me her phone and had me add my name and number in.  And I did.  Honestly, with my phone number I’ve got very little to lose.  Maybe I end up getting a ton of crank calls, but so what?  I have unlimited, and eventually she’ll lose steam.  But if she does contact me, she and I have everything to gain.

She told me she has two kids and she wants them to start running too.  I could change the lives of three people.  I could make a new friend.  I could make a friend in my neighborhood, which, The Hippy excluded, I have none.  I could learn to teach people something, and in turn build more confidence in myself.  I could have someone to run with, someone to hold accountable, and someone to hold me accountable.

And really, most days I wouldn’t comment on race.  But it’s been on my mind a lot lately, and this place has me a little jaded.  This neighborhood has simultaneously made me both more and less sympathetic.  I see more sides to things, but I also see just how far we still have left to go.  But getting people to find things they have or might have in common seems like a pretty good way to start.  I don’t really want to sound all hippy-dippy, but  we’ve gotta start with something, because pretending race is a thing of the past, or that some people have a right to be racist because the world has handed them a raw deal just isn’t working.  Everyone has to rise up and choose to participate in the communities around them.

Run: For Your Life

Today I ran my first 5k.  So often people say “first, and last, 5k”, but after today I am decidedly hooked.

A history:

Growing up I was the kid who walked the mile during the Presidential Fitness Test (which, to this day, I despise).  Things changed a little when I started playing volleyball in 8th grade, but I still wasn’t terribly interested in running.  I remember running the mile during volleyball, being very nearly last (okay, probably last), and having one of the girls who’d already finished cheer me on.  For some reason I hated that, and it made me think even less of running.  I used every excuse: it’s hard on my knees, it’s hard on my lungs, I have bad joints.  All of those excuses are, in some ways, based on fact.  I have crap-ass lungs and joints and always have.  But here’s the catch… Running helps, if done properly.

About a year ago, for some weird reason, I got a wild hair and went out and bought a pair of running shoes on clearance from DSW.  They were a little bit too snug, but I made them work.  I ran for a few months, nearly every morning, until I got a cold, or it got cold, or I decided I was sick of waking up at 6am.  I’m not really sure what my reason for stopping was, and it’s really neither here nor there anymore.  A friend of mine told me about the Couch to 5k podcast, and I ran it for a couple weeks before I finally gave up.

Fast forward to March.  I finally realized that I had gained way too much weight over the last two years, and needed to do something about it.  I’m not willing to deprive myself of food, though I know I definitely need to watch my snacking.  I was willing, I decided, to move my fat ass around a little more.  So, I started researching 5ks that were just slightly beyond the Couch to 5k program length, settled on the Independence Day Races, dusted off my running gear and started out.

This time, instead of running every morning, I broke it into a manageable schedule that I was able to keep up pretty well until the last couple weeks when my work schedule got blown to hell.  I trembled with fear every time Robert Ullrey said we’d start running an interval that seemed scary–5 minutes, 10 minutes, 20 minutes.  I thought this man was crazy.  But then I did it, and I lived.  I lived through every single one, and only gave up and limped home on one run after my IT band decided it had absolutely positively had enough.  I knew better than to push myself further than my body was able to go.

There were a few times I allowed myself to walk when I was supposed to run, but I knew it was almost certainly mental weakness instead of physical weakness.  Today, however, I refused to stop running.  I refused to stop running when other runners around me started walking.  I refused to stop running when my lungs burned a little.  I pushed through, and after the 2 mile mark I knew there was absolutely no reason I should walk at all.  I ran slowly.  I was the tortoise.  Yes, some of the runners that walked actually finished before me.  Yes, some of the people who ran the 10k did so before I finished my 5k.  But it didn’t matter.  I finished and I didn’t walk.  That was my goal.

You may have noticed that at the top of my blog is a link to Run: For Your Life.  It’s a stupid little graphic I made up with the intentions of having a QRCode lead to it (a failed Iron Craft project).  It still may, who knows.  I’m not entirely sure what my plans are for that page yet, but for now it stands for how I feel.  I will try to run for the rest of my life.  As an investment in my life.  As a dedication to not spending my entire free time sitting on the couch watching Netflix.  For at least 3 hours a week I will be active.  And I will keep improving, because there’s no where to go but up.