Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Running - my history & some tips

Lately I've been getting a lot of questions on how to get started with running or how to enjoy it.  After a few personal messages the idea was brought to my attention to actually post a blog about it.  Of course!  Why didn't I think of this yet? 

Let me first preface this by saying that I am NOT a professional trainer.  I am simply a woman who was never good at any sport (being on the volleyball team in high school doesn't count as being "good"), got tired of gaining weight from up & down hormones, needed an outlet for the emotional distress of multiple miscarriages, & stuck with it.  So don't assume that I know everything & don't hold it against me if something goes wrong. 

Back in the summer of '08 I started running, with the help of my husband.  Earlier in the year he completed his first marathon, a great accomplishment for someone who's lived with asthma his whole life & was told he'd never do something like that.  Yeah, I'm proud of him.  I had tried running a couple years before but gave up & I know why, which I'll get to later.  I was upset about the weight I'd gained after 4 miscarriages & wanted to do something about it.

So here's what I did to learn how to run.  No, not everyone just knows how to run.  I would run for 2 minutes, then walk 2 minutes, run for 2 minutes again, walk 2 minutes, & so on & would do that for 30 minutes.  After a while (maybe a week or 2 later) the 2 minute run got easy so I increased the running time to 3 minutes, still walking only 2 minutes.  Then I increased it to 4 minutes, then 5.  Eventually I was able to run for 30 minutes.  Then my goal was to run for 3 miles without stopping.

I still remember the first time I ever finished a 3 mile run without stopping.  Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" was playing on my ipod.  Yeah, I know that's cheesy but that's what happened.

Then I picked a 5k race, Ft. Worth's Turkey Trot.  I honestly can't remember my time but I know that I never walked the entire race. 

After that I did a half marathon & another 5k.  Then I got pregnant.  I missed running while I was pregnant but there was no better reason for my hiatus than the blessing of my little Shaylin.  **side note**  Yes, I know most runners can continue running through most of their pregnancy.  But with 6 miscarriages there was no question that I had to play it safe.  And I will do the same for future pregnancies.

After my pregnancy I started back the same way I first learned to run, with my 2 minute rule.  I started at a very slow pace, 13:57, but I didn't know what to expect having given birth 6 weeks prior.  I was fortunate enough to have no joint issues but that's not to say that other moms won't.  So take that as a word of caution.

I ran a 5k around 3 1/2 months post-partum & soon after started training for a marathon.  I kind of broke a running rule with this one because most recommend running for a year before training for a marathon.  But since I wasn't technically a newbie I ignored it.  It wasn't easy & my time isn't record-breaking, but the feeling I got crossing that finish line is something nobody can take from me. 

So there's the history behind my running.  Will it work for everyone?  No.  You have to find what works for you. 
So what other advice would I give to someone who wants to start running?  Well . . .

1.  Go to a runner store.  Not Dicks, Academy, Sport Authority, or other chain sports stores.  Sorry if you work for these places; it's nothing personal.  The associates there may or may not be runners.  In my opinion they're just trying to make a sale.  So they'll push whatever their managers tell them to push.  At a runner store they take care of you.  You can go in with your old shoes (if you have any) & they'll study how you wear them down.  They'll see how you stand & check your arch height.  And then they'll find a shoe that is designed for you.  You really can't just pick a shoe because you like the color.  It may not be what will help you run your best.  I remember the first time I bought real running shoes.  It felt like I stepped into pillows.  I had also been dealing with knee pain & it immediately went away.  While there you can also shop for other essentials like socks (the right kind really do matter), shorts or pants (or tights!), & tops.  And sports bras, which brings me to my next point.

2.  Buy a good sports bra.  Ok, so I'm obviously speaking to the ladies.  You will want a high impact bra.  No other will do.  And especially if you are breastfeeding.  I've gotten some decent ones at Walmart & Target but my favorite one is from my runner store

3.  What you listen to, if at all, is up to you.  I have to have music that's upbeat.  I've got about 5 hours of music on my ipod shuffle so too much to even bother to list.  But it ranges to 80's to new stuff to even Gaelic music.

4.  You've gotta keep your water intake up.  Most people (talking even non-runners) don't drink the recommended 8 glasses of water a day, which is 64 oz.  If I don't drink enough water I tend to have cramps in my calves.  And if you're going to run outside with any heat you really gotta be on top of your water.

5.  Potassium helps with calf cramps, too.  If I can't have a banana everyday, I take a potassium supplement.  Never have a problem then.

6.  Stretch, stretch, & stretch some more.  Stretch before you run & again after a run.  If you're just starting to run for the first time, you'll be sore for the first few days.  So stretch throughout the day.  Sometimes you might even need to stop during a run to stretch.  For me it used to be during the first mile.

7.  Women runners are more prone to knee pain so glucosimine will become one of your best friends.  I've actually been slack on taking it & now that I've been increasing my pace I feel the need for it.

8.  You will have to find a balance between pushing yourself & over-doing it.  That's a line I still have trouble seeing.  I tend to go easy on myself to prevent injury.  You don't want to hurt yourself just to beat a time or whatever reason.  But you also don't want to constantly allow yourself to not push harder.  One of the coolest things about a marathon is how it's an example of what the human body is capable of.

9.  Runner's World is a great resource for all things running.  There are great articles for newbies & help for injuries.  That's where I got my marathon training schedule.  You can also create one for other races.

10.  Start with an easy pace.  One of the biggest mistakes new runners make is they try to sprint, not jog.  They don't feel like they're really running if it's a slow jog.  Well, ya gotta start somewhere.  If you keep trying to run faster than you can, you'll burn out, get injured, & quit.  That's what I did a long time ago.  It's been a "slow & steady win the race" kind of mentality but I've gone from a slow jog or 13:57 to my latest average pace of 10:26. 

The best thing about running is that you are your only competition & you are on a team of one.  Running isn't about winning or losing.  It's about trying.  And no matter what you accomplish you can be proud of what you did. 

A race isn't like other sporting events.  There is no booing.  I mean, why would you boo or hiss at the guy who came in first place at a marathon just because he beat your friend.  He just completed a marathon!  And that guy will then cheer for your friend & all the other runners.  In fact, I would recommend before you even run a race to just go to a race, any race, & be a spectator.  Cheer for the runners.  Many will thank you.  I can't tell you what it did for me when I got to mile 17 of my marathon & the group of people there were cheering for me as if they personally knew me. 

So there you have it.  My little running lesson.  I don't claim to know everything but I try to help where I can.  Never say you can't run.  I thought I couldn't either.  If The Biggest Loser can get morbidly obese people to finish a marathon (although I still think they're wrong in doing it), then anyone can try for a 5k.  And if you do a 5k, then try for a 10k.  And then set your sights on a half marathon.  And then maybe even a full marathon.  I did it 8 months post-partum.  It really is possible.


  1. Shelly - thanks for sharing all this information. I can see what a positive influence running has been for you and a lot of my other friends. I really want to get into it. I have discovered (to my surprise!) that I can run a mile. Not super fast, but I can do it. However, once I get close to a mile I get an awful cramp in my side. I feel like I have the energy to keep running, but the pain in my side is too much. Do you think I get this cramp because I'm not drinking enough water? just wondered if you had any suggestions. Again, thanks for sharing. Claire (BBC)

  2. Great info, Shelly! Thanks for sharing...I am trying to get my running mojo back up and your story really helps...

  3. Shelly, I have always had a problem with running, even as a child, because of knee and back trouble and stress-induced asthma attacks (so what you said about Jeremy really caught my attention)I've always wanted to be able to run, but resigned myself to the thought that I would never be really successful at it. I walk on a regular basis, trying to fit in a minute of sprinting, and keep up with P90X. Your post has given me a glimmer of hope, but I still have concerns and would love your input. At 16, I had a lower back injury during figure skating. My chiropractor advised against any future jumps on the iced and even against running. Is there any hope for me (haha) in your opinion?

  4. OK, consider me officially inspired... I've been wanting to start running (the most I've ever done before is a 5K), and this morning one of our occupational therapists invited me to join their training group for the Missoula Marathon. They're training for the half marathon, but I don't think I'd be happy just doing that - I want to do the whole thing... I have 25 weeks, and I'm in OK shape currently.

    It's been a bucket list item for me for a few years, but I've never been willing to do the training. So here goes nothing...