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A Runner: I’m not a real one…….but I pretend.
January 26, 2012 - By Ashley Johnston 53 Comments
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Remember how I get bored easily with doing the same workout over and over? I need a goal or a class or a workout buddy. Something that keeps me motivated. So, I decided a few weeks ago that I was going to start running again. And sign up for a race to keep me on track.
Oh wait, wait, wait, don’t click away. I’m not a natural born runner who’s going to say that running is the most invigorating way to clear my brain and firm up my body while I forget that my thighs are burning and my calves are like hot cakes on the griddle. Yeah right. I don’t actually fit into the runner mold either. My body is not long and lean. Oh wait, it’s long but far from lean. But I look like I belong in the goalie box…….or something. In fact, I have always HATED running. And despised those dang mile runs in P.E. in grade/high school. Uggh. How embarrassing.
My husband and I met a marathon runner while living in Idaho about 3 years ago. He was the real deal. Super long and lean, endurance like an animal, and all the fancy watches/trackers to help him shave seconds off his time. He told my husband one day that he used to be an overweight football coach. He hated running and was pretty unhealthy. But one day, he changed all that. And then he began telling us what helped him and that if we would just work on a few tips, then we could run too.
I didn’t believe him.
But after a few times talking to him (serious runners are passionate about their sport and will talk to you about it every chance they can get), we kinda decided to give it a try. And once I got the hang of it, I started running longer and longer without stopping. I couldn’t believe that I was actually running. I was hooked. And at my peak (about 2 1/2 years ago), I went from barely running around the block to running a full 11 miles straight. Yes, eleven. My clunky high school self would have NEVER believed me had I told her that while she struggled to run that dumb mile test. But let me tell you a secret. I’m a clunky runner and pretty pokey. And yeah, many of you could walk faster than I run but I still put-put right along. Because it’s running. And dang it, it’s good enough.
So thank you Mr. Albaugh, for teaching me everything I know about running. (If you by some slight chance are reading this, your enthusiasm about running changed me. You taught me how to NOT hate running. And told me that even I could do it. And you waiting at the finish line while my husband and I finished races, was so encouraging. You’re an angel. Thank you.)
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However, since that time, I have gotten out of the habit of running and then had another baby and then moved across the country twice, blah, blah, blah. But just a few weeks ago I decided to start all over again. I figured I’d have to start by running for a minute, walk for 5 minutes, run for a minute, walk for 5, etc. Just like I did when I started. However, my body remembered and those old running muscles must have kicked in because I ran for a good 20 minutes. And it felt so good.
That’s when I remembered something really important. Running is like 95% mental. There are some techniques to running but your mind is a powerful thing. It can discourage you in a snap and tell you that you’re too clunky, too overweight, too out of shape, too uncoordinated, etc…….and wow, I’m already feeling deflated just writing that. But if you’ve ever seen that Biggest Loser show, you know that anyone and any sized person can run. So if you want to, you could totally prove yourself wrong and become a runner. (Unless you have some other medical reason why you shouldn’t.) It’s slow going at first and you have to keep at it and train those muscles……but mostly you have to train your brain. So I sat my self down the other day and said, “Ash, it’s time! You need a running goal again.”
So I’m on my way, training for a 4 mile race right before Valentine’s Day. (Yeah Erin, you better still be running that. See you there!)
Do you want to know a few things that Mr. Albaugh taught me?
(I know he wouldn’t care if I shared. He always shared with everyone he knew. Because he was cool like that.)
(And remember, these are only suggestions that I learned from my marathon runner friend. He read the books, trained with other runners, etc. And these are what worked for me……the non-runner type. So use what you’d like.)
- You need a new pair of shoes. He would drill it into us that an old pair of shoes will cause injury and will make you run slower and make your body ache, and will frustrate you, etc. I can’t tell you what a difference this has made for my knees and joints. Well worth the money to buy a new pair. Just be sure there is extra room by your toes. (I order a half-whole size up.) You don’t want numb toes or cramped feet. (My husband and I have both used many brands of running shoes…….our favorite by far has been the Asics Nimbus brand. So light and airy and supportive. But okay, they aren’t that pretty nor are they the bright teal/yellow color that I would like…..but the comfort is more important than how they look.)
- Practice walking first. He told us not to take lengthy sprinter strides……but to keep our steps short and right underneath our body. He also told us to put our heel down first and then roll to our toes as we walked. Running/walking on your toes uses more energy and if you want to run for a long time, conserving energy is important. So we walked around in circles, putting our heels down first and practiced a nice even gait, with a short stride.
- Relax your hands, bend your elbows, and relax your shoulders. Mr Albaugh explained to us again and again about conserving energy. He taught us that clenching your fists, or pointing your thumbs up, shrugging your shoulders up by your ears, etc…….all uses extra energy. So he told us to completely drop our hands and just let them hang off our arms. And if you need to, just lightly touch your thumb and middle finger. And then just bend your elbows and let your arms swing naturally as you run. But just keep it relaxed. This has really helped me to focus on my form.
- Run on the road when possible. The sidewalk is a lot harder than pavement so whenever possible, use the shoulder of the road. This will help achy knees and joints. (If I run on sidewalks, my knees always hurt.) Also, try and run on a flat road. This will keep your stride even and keep your muscles working evenly in both legs. (Mr Albaugh would tell us that whenever he was running on a deserted road, he would run right down the middle.)
- If you get tired, slow down your steps. Slow way down if you have to but you don’t have to stop. Just try slowing down first, see how you feel, then try going just a bit longer.
- If you want to run faster, speed up your steps, not the length of your steps.
- Warm-up and Cool-down. Mr Albaugh told me to just walk for at least 5 minutes before and after your run. That’s a good way to transition in and out of running.
- Stretch. You can really pull those muscles…..so give them a good stretch and lengthen them when you’re done.
A few other things that help me.
- Make visual goals of how far to run. When I started out, I didn’t like looking at a clock. I liked to pick a landmark on the road and run to it. See that garbage can up ahead? Run to it. Then walk until the next one. Then run until the one after that. Then lengthen it and run for a bock, walk for a block, etc. That always helped me when I was first starting.
- Trick yourself mentally. Tell yourself that you’re only going to run for 90 seconds (or for a block) and then take a break. So run for those 90 seconds but then when you reach those 90 seconds, take note of your body. You’re not going to die or pass out…….so push yourself for another 15 seconds. And then rest. I do this ALL THE TIME. Now that I know I can run further, I say, “Okay Ash, I know you’re not in the mood to run. So run for 15 minutes and that’s all. Then you can be done for today.” And then after the 15 minutes I say, “Okay, just do 5 more minutes. No big deal. You can do 5 more minutes.” And then I keep going and running more and more. That helps me every time to get started. It’s kind of silly because I know I’m probably going to do it to myself. But for some reason it gets me going. Every. Time.
- Reward yourself. Just like I mentioned in this post, I need rewards for meeting smaller goals. Simple as that.
- Sign up for a race. I can say all I want that I just want to get back into running. But there’s something about signing up for a race that actually makes me stick to it. I keep running and training to get better at running. Not necessarily to get faster……..just to get more comfortable at it before the big race day. And it’s okay if you’re the absolute last one. Who cares?
- Music, music, music. Sometimes I get a really motivating song on and all of the sudden my body is running on adrenaline and excitement. It thrills me. And moves me right along.
- Use a program. If you’ve never run before but would really like to, I have heard excellent things about the couch to 5k program. I was also looking for other free running apps on my phone and found one called c25kfree. It actually talks to you and tells you when to run and when to walk and tells you how you’re doing for every single day you run (3 days a week). I didn’t end up using it because I am already able to run a 5k but if I were starting from scratch…….I would have LOVED this app. (You can also listen to music while it’s running in the background.)
- It takes me about a mile to get warmed up. Once I started getting better and better at running and knew that I could run more than a mile……..I would still have a hard time getting started. But I realized that it took me about a mile to get into my groove and get comfortable and for my body to work out all the kinks. After that, I could run on and on and on. It shocked me to find out this was true. But when I worked up to those 11 miles, I still had to just push through that first achy mile. And then I was fine.
- Stop caring what you look like while running. I used to care. And that would limit where I ran. But I know I’m clunky and pretty slow and turn bright red in the face and look deathly while running up hill. Ha….but I seriously don’t care anymore. I’m doing this for me…….and that feels good.
I think that’s it. Hopefully there are a few tips here that will help some of you. And remember, most everyone can run. So if you have ever said, “Hmmmm, running seems like good exercise but I hate running. And would never be good at it.”…………you’re wrong. Just give it a try and see how it goes. You may end up surprising yourself like I did.
(And you may still hate running……but will most likely fall in love with how it makes you feel.)
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And just so you know, I have been mixing up running, a little bit of aerobics, and some strength training directed by Alysa that has been kicking me in the butt. Want to give that a try as well? You should. Mixing things up helps with bordeom and also tones a bigger variety of muscles. Who doesn’t want that?!
Read all ‘Inpiration to Fitness’ related posts here. There’s tons of inspiring articles from trainers and other bloggers who are trucking right along with me.