My 8 Commandments of Running
Running is addictive. It can be lots of fun, and it can be extremely frustrating-often at the same time! However, once you have pushed past a barrier in running that you never thought possible, or crushed a goal or dream, the feeling is exhilarating! I have compiled a list of things that I have learned in the past couple of years since I started running, at the request of my best friend. She inspires me daily, and today is no different. I woke up with a text from her that said she was training for her first 10k. She did her first 5k a couple of months ago, pushing her new baby in a stroller (ok, so I always think those people are bada**** when I see them in runs-usually passing me like I am standing still UP a hill!). I think it’s amazing that she already has set her sights on a 10k. I’ve only done one and it certainly wasn’t pushing a baby. Props to all the moms and dads out there who make fitness AND time with their children a priority. Somehow, these superheroes find a way to do it without sacrificing one or the other.
Hottie McHotterson and her hubby after their first 5k!
So here’s the list! These are all my opinions, and each topic is a study in its own. I am simply sharing what has worked for me.
Step Numero Uno! Pick something to train for. For me, losing ten pounds sounds like a great goal, but when someone puts a donut in my face, I’m like ‘what ten pounds!?’ There are going to be days when you are completely unmotivated, so having something or someone to fight through these days for is going to be crucial. My mom teaches classes on smoking cessation, and she has older clients who finally decide to give up a lifetime of smoking so they can watch their grandchildren grow up. Some days, getting on the pavement and COMPLETING a 3 mile run will be the hardest thing I did that week, so having a goal in mind was the only thing that got me through it. I remember the Spartan Beast we did (13 mi mud and obstacle course) we started chanting pizza…beer… after mile 10. Find what works!!!!
Will run for donuts!!
So running is a cheap/easy way to get fit right? Well… kind of. Running can be hard on your body, so the most important thing is to have good shoes. And good shoes are expensive. And good shoes don’t last forever. Running might help you get fit today, but you don’t want to sacrifice your body in the long run. So pay for good shoes up front, or the doctor later. Before you start logging in the miles, go to a RUNNING specialty store in your area. They should have trained professionals that can analyze your gait and any pronation of your foot. Taken into account with your weekly mileage, they will be able to help you select a good quality shoe that will help save your joints from overuse injuries. If you don’t have a local running store, there are sites online that offer a similar process, such as roadrunnersports.com (I am sure there are many others, so just do your research). If you are just getting started, I would not suggest minimalist running shoes, or shoes that are easily bent in half over the sole (try bending the toe part toward the heel). Do your body a favor and go with support over looks! Once you get your shoes, make sure you replace them often. Every year is a pretty good rule, because running shoes may not often show wear on the outside, but they will not offer the same support and cushion as they did on day 1.
Not just the day before the race or your run, EVERY DAY! Your body loves water, needs water! A good rule of thumb is to drink half your body weight in ounces of water daily. See how good you feel when your body isn't starving for water.
This can be tricky, and the best rule is experiment and learn your body. Generally, protein is hard to digest when your body is running, so go easy on anything that might be high in protein right before or during your run. Try to hydrate before, so you don’t have to drink loads of water during your run. Water sloshing around in your stomach is super uncomfortable and can quickly make you sick. Also, make sure you plan your fuel ahead of time. If you have a big event or early morning race that you are trying to “carb up” for, eat your high carb meal for lunch the day before, and go light at dinner, maybe grilled chicken and veggies, just keep it easily digestable. For breakfast, eat something routine that you know your body can digest easily. And never, NEVER try something new on race day!! Lastly, don’t neglect to refuel your body after your race. Beer may sound like the best solution/reward at the time, but also research the right foods (proteins, carbs, electrolytes, etc.) that will help your body recover and rebuild that muscle quickly.
Learn to listen to your body
Being proficient at running means that you have learned to overcome the “mind games”. Running hurts, and your body hates it. At least, that’s your mind telling you it does. Every runner has learned to push through these thoughts and pains, and refocus their mind on something else. However, the downside of that is it is often easy for a runner to ignore real pain or nagging problems, because they are so used to pushing through “pain” or discomfort on a day-to-day basis. Learn your body so that you can recognize the difference. Nagging pains are often signs of overuse injuries, which can become quite serious if not dealt with (rest, rest, REST!) quickly.
Avoid overuse injuries
A good rule of thumb is not to increase your distance more than 10% each week. Otherwise, you might end up with shin splints, IT band issues, or plantar fasciitis, to name a few. There are plenty of free training plans available for every distance on the internet. Select a good one that does not increase your distance by more than 10% weekly and incorporates rest weeks. The best way to deal with a lot of overuse injuries is ice to reduce inflammation (a major cause), stretching exercises, and REST. The internet is a wonderful resource for stretching and strengthening exercises to help alleviate pain for some of these common injuries.
Another way to help avoid injuries is to make strength training a crucial part of your running routine. Anytime you train one muscle group over another, you are creating an imbalance in your body. Your body was miraculously created to work together in sync. You might have noticed this anytime you have had an injury that caused you to limp, for example. Pretty soon, you may have noticed that something else, seemingly unrelated, began to hurt. In the same way, running without strength training can cause an imbalance in your leg muscles. Try to make sure that twice a week you are incorporating exercises that include your hamstrings/quadriceps, abductors/adductors (especially if you are prone to knee pain!), calves, and glutes. With these complimenting muscles, be especially careful not to train one more than the other. Generally, body weight exercises incorporating free weights are going to be better for you than machines, especially for beginners. Machines are made to isolate one muscle-leg extensions, for example, work mainly your quads. On the other hand, squats and lunges make all of your muscles work together for one movement (even your core! HELLO ABS!!!!). These are also natural body movements, so they will translate better into using those muscles for running. I don’t pretend to be a physical trainer, so do your own research, and if you are unsure, a certified personal trainer can help you get started with a routine.
Stretch, stretch, STRETCH
Lastly, every day, and I mean EVERY day, stretch!!! This is really the most important thing you can do to avoid injury, in my opinion. You may not feel the need to stretch, but I have found that a daily stretching routine, even a few minutes morning and evening, is much more effective than only trying to stretch ten minutes before your run. If you want to take it to the next level, incorporating a foam roller after your run or strength training can really help aid in recovery. It works much like a deep tissue massage to get that lactic acid moving out of your muscles. I swear by (and at!) mine. It hurts so good!
My dad and I, 1995 (ish)
This is not so much a commandment, as suggestion, and is solely at your discretion. As you can see, I have found scruncies and neon race suits are crucial come race day. They have helped me get across the finish line since day 1. Since that time, however, I have learned NOT to outrun my pacer. hehe ;)
These are just some of the things I have learned along the way (more often than not, the hard way). Each portion literally has books written on the subject and professionals who study them individually, so do your own research to find what works for you. There is nothing more rewarding than the feeling of having completed your first 5k, when you never thought you would be able to run a mile. It seems so simple, but it really is a complex, competitive and ADDICTIVE sport J I am sure I have forgotten a lot of crucial points for beginners, so please comment any things that you have learned or incorporated into your running routine.