Friday, January 13, 2012

Teaching Myself to Run

I never had a running coach and was never on a cross country team or track team. I never thought I'd  even run more than a mile, especially after the elementary school days where they forced you to go around the track 4 times in PE, and with every step thinking evil thoughts about the teacher. I never thought I'd be a crazed cardio freak, getting up at 5am to run in the cold rain or hitting up the gym willingly after a long day of work. What would ever posses me to WANT to do something like that out of my own free will? No thanks.

Get out of bed to run in this?? Are you CRAZY??

Fast forward to 2010 - The urge had overcome me to run. The challenge of running a 5K without stopping was upon me. My brother was successful in high school and even got a scholarship to run for college, so I had hoped it was in my "blood". But where was I supposed to start? I knew nothing about running. Nothing except for that I used to hate it.

Brother in college. Beast mode.

I studied running books, picked my brother's brain, went to the running store and got my feet tested for proper shoes, and read training programs online through Hal Higdon, Cool Running and Runner's World. There were so many variations of training programs, how was I supposed to know which one to choose? So I morphed them all together and rigged together my own, not sure of what would happen. 

Meet Hal. Hal Higdon.

A year and a half later, I've done 3 half marathons, 1 full marathon, and countless 5K's and 10K's. Luckily my jacked-up training schedule worked!


My friend Kasey now has the same challenge...she wants to run a 5K. But doesn't know where to start and doesn't know what training plan to follow. 
(Yes ma'am, I just called you out, so now you really DO have to run that 5K!!)

I told her I'd send her a "quick" email with a training schedule similar to mine, and include some tips that I learned when I first started running.

Well, that email turned into a novel. 

At dinner the other night, she said I should post my email on my blog as a
"Beginning Runners 101" post. 

So, here you go!

Here's the plan I put together for you - it's very similar to mine when I first started running, and I couldn't go farther than about a mile and half before I wanted to pass out.
Feel free to modify and switch around any of the days, depending on travel/work/school schedules.

Strength training is AWESOME! Keep doing weights, and focus on doing squats/lunges/leg lifts with weights - the more you work your glutes, hamstrings and quads, the happier your knees well be and the faster you'll be able to push yourself mid-run. (Plus, you burn more calories working out the glutes and legs because those muscles are larger!) Arms, shoulders and back are still important too for propelling yourself. And dont' forget your abs and core - strengthening the core will help with breathing and will keep you from getting those nasty side stitches. Yoga and pilates moves are great for core and strengthening your hips, too.

For cross training, I prefer (and recommend!) swimming/spinning/biking - something different from running to get your cardio going, and that works different muscle groups. It also keeps you from getting burnt out on running. The exercise bike at the gym is a great option if there are no spinning classes - even the elliptical or stairmaster would work. Yoga is also a fabulous cross training option.

Side note - I can't go without Hot Yin and Yang Yoga at Yoga Energy Studio in St Pete - if it weren't' for Sylvie and that class, I would have never been able to run my marathon, hands down.

Whenever you can physically run outside, do it. Treadmill running is way different than outside. To beat the heat, I do mine either early in the morning (6:30ish) or later in the evening (around 8).  But sometimes a good hot sweaty run is just what I need :)

For the Saturday where it says "run", dont worry about how fast you run, just cover the distance (or approximate distance). Pace yourself - slow down to a 12 or 13 minute mile to try and do the entire thing without stopping. Pacing yourself is probably one of the most challenging aspects.  Remember though that the goal is not to beat other runners - the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit!

There is also no rule that says you have to run it continuously - if you need to stop for a few, stop and walk until you feel you can go again. Half the battle of running is getting over that urge to stop.

For distances, go to and sign up for a free account - its a great website that will allow you to place a start and finish point and map out your distance beforehand so you have a better idea of how far you need to go.

What shoes are you currently running in? If you get a chance, head over to Fit2Run at International Plaza (or any running store for those not in Tampa!). They can do a treadmill test that will video your step and show you what your foot does mid-run. I am an "overpronator" meaning my ankles curve inwards on my down step. Because of this, I need special arch supports or shoes made for stability. This could be one reason why your knees tend to hurt during either need better shoes or maybe some arch-supporting orthodic inserts. They will try to sell you "special" shoes but dont' worry about buying those yet unless you have extra money and just want to....the inserts are way cheaper than buying new shoes.
However, if your current shoes are old and worn, it may be a good idea to go over to sports authority and just get some sort of neutral shoe - my first pair was a neutral pair of Aasics with the gel - very cushiony and comfy! I added the inserts and I was fine. I will also say if you do buy new shoes, use them only for workouts and runs. It will avoid wearing them down more quickly.

Speaking of for running apparel is a lot of fun. I would say besides a decent pair of shoes/inserts, you'll need some wicking sports socks (your feet will thank you later!) and dry-fit wicking shorts. Cotton shorts are OK for short distances, but once you start sweating the cotton chaffes the hell out of your inner thigh. I have scars from learning that lesson. Not pretty. They have good shorts at TJ Maxx for like $14, along with a good sports bra selection. I think Target has some too. Also, a good sports-type of watch with a stopwatch so you can time yourself properly. Doesn't have to be fancy, anything from Wal Mart or Target is just fine.

If you listen to music while you run, slap an armband on or clip your ipod onto your shirt - music always helps motivate me, but some people prefer not to be distracted. I got my armband on ebay for like $4.

If you can't stand the sweat in your eyes, don't be ashamed to wear a sweatband or visor/cap.
I am obsessed with my SweatyBand. It holds your hair back better than anything I've ever tried before, and they make all kinds of cute patterns and colors. Don't hesitate to buy yourself one (or five). You can thank me later.

As far as other general advice, I would say to be patient and allow yourself to adapt to the demands of running and go with the flow. You'll surprise yourself a few weeks down the road how much progress you've made!

Everyone has different styles and ways of running and training - a few weeks from now you may want to turn it up a notch, or change up some of the days, or flip flop some of the workouts. That's totally fine - make it your own and go with it! 

Also remember food is fuel...wouldn't recommend doing crazy diets while training. I eat smaller more frequent meals and help keep it well balanced with fruits/veggies/proteins. Carbs aren't your worst enemy especially in the form of fruit or veggies. I always eat a nice carb-y meal before my long run or before a race.

I think that's all the words of wisdom for now!!! If you have questions shoot them over!

Yep, wasn't joking about that "novel" thing. 

Hopefully there is something in there that you can take away and morph into your own running regimen! I am by no means an expert or a coach or certified in anything that has to do with running, so take it as you will, but I always felt it was beneficial to get tips from other runners and didn't want to be stingy in my knowledge, even though it's limited. I'm still learning about running every day and study my runner's world magazine every month for new tips and tricks and motivation.

Running is what you put into it - you wanna be a runner? Do it! I'm not saying it's easy, but I can promise you it's rewards are tenfold. 

Happy Running!

1 comment:

  1. This is awesome!!! Thanks for sharing! I love Sweaty Bands too!!!