Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Guest Post - Learning to Run

Today I'm really happy to have a guest post from my moms friend Linda from over at Linda's Lens.  Linda is an avid hiker, runner and snow skier   This girl is busy and active!  Mom was talking to Linda about her struggle with completing her 5K running program and she offered to give us some tips and suggestions to share.  So let's hear what Linda has to say...


During high school I got caught up in the first running boom of the late 70s-early 80s.  I ran track and cross country for my school, and although never a fantastic runner, had fun and enjoyed the camaraderie.  During my first year of college, I was a casual runner, competing in local 10k races.  Then during a dark nighttime run, I hit a rock and twisted my ankle.  My running career came to an abrupt halt.   From that point on, school, then marriage, then job and kids dominated my life.

Not to say I wasn't active.  I fit in some skiing and hiking whenever my work and mom duties allowed, and became a regular attendee of aerobic classes at my gym.  But running still nagged at my subconscious.  I was now living in Oregon, home of Nike, Hayward Field, and a huge running mecca.

Then my sister trained and successfully ran two marathons.  This inspired me to sign up and train for a race of my own.  So, in November of 2008, at 45 years of age, I signed up to run the Hippie Chick Half Marathon, held Mother's Day weekend 2009.  I had about six months to whip myself into running shape.
To say it was hard to start a running program in my mid-40s would be an understatement.  I began walk/running a mile loop in a nearby neighborhood park.  Slowly I worked at running more than walking until I could cover a mile nonstop.  Then I tried for two miles , then three, then four.  By February, I was running nearly five miles.  But that was still a long ways from the 13.1 miles I'd need to cover for my May race.  Time to find myself a training plan .  Scouring the internet, I found a plan that seemed to work for me.  In the weeks to come, I would follow it to the letter.

Finally, race day arrived.  My sister flew in for the occasion.  Although not registered for the race, she jumped in after mile two and run the rest of the way by my side.  It helped so much to have her there, to talk me through the rough parts.  I'm happy to say I finished my first half marathon with flying colors, and my time was faster than anticipated.  I remember crossing the finish line and thinking "Wow - my training plan worked!  All my hard work paid off."

Since that day, I've gone on to run three marathons, countless half marathons (my favorite distance) a few 5 and 10ks, and three Hood to Coast relays.  Running is now a big part of my workout routine.  It's helped keep me in shape for my hiking and skiing activities.

Tips for Beginners:
·         Before beginning a running program, check with your doctor, especially if you haven't been active.

·         Invest in good quality running shoes.  Go to a specialty running store.  All running shoes are not created equal, and what works for your friend may not work for you.  The running store staff will analyze your gait, and recommend the best type of shoes for you.  Try on a bunch of different brands, and actually run around the store in them (the staff will not mind!)  The shoes should be comfortable right out of the box.  If  they're not - don't buy them.  Expect to spend around $100.  Yes, it's a lot of money, but running in the wrong shoes and getting injured is even more expensive.

·         This tip is for the ladies - invest in a good quality running bra.  Make sure it holds the girls in tight, but doesn't chafe.  My favorite brands are Moving Comfort and CW-X.

·         Start slow.  Warm up before you start your run.  I usually walk for the first 5-10 minutes to get my body used to motion.  When I'm finished, I also walk the last 5-10 minutes to allow my body to cool down.  I also recommend following the cool-down with a few leg stretches (quads, hamstrings, calves)  The Runner's World magazine website has some good suggestions for stretches.

·         Be patient.  Building up your mileage takes time.  Running is hard work, and starting out from scratch is difficult.  You will have tough days in the beginning.  Expect your muscles to be sore.  They're adjusting to being used in a new way.  But keep at it, and after a month or two, you will see results.

·         Be consistent.  Set aside a certain time of day and days of the week for running.  Don't let anything interfere with these times.  The more regular you run, the more you will progress, and the fitter you'll become.

·         Find a running buddy.  It's much easier to work out with a friend.  You're less likely to skip a scheduled run, and you'll have someone to talk to during the workout.  The miles go by much faster when I'm running with a girlfriend.  Check out local running stores, most have weekly running groups.  These are great places to meet running buddies. 

·         Join a training program.  Many local running stores have "Couch to 5K" programs.  It's a great place to meet other beginning runners, get moral support, and receive professional coaching.  Most training sessions culminate at a local 5K race.

·         Get inspired!  Read books, magazines, or blogs about running. Listen to podcasts. Some of my personal favorites:  books:  "Mile Markers" by Kristin Armstrong, "Born to Run" by Christopher McDougall, "Run Like a Mother" and "Train Like a Mother" by Sarah Bowen Shea and Dimity McDowell;  magazines:  Runner's World; podcasts: "Another Mother Runner."

When I'm not training for a race, I typically average three running days a week.  I get up early before work two weekday mornings and do a long run (5-10 miles) on Saturday.  Running in the morning is nice, because the world is quiet, there's little traffic, and you get your workout done before anything else in the day can interfere.  And I always feel really good after a morning run.
Kim asked me what I do to stave off boredom while I'm running.  I'm lucky because I'm kind of ADD and am easily entertained.  I love to look around at the world as I'm traveling my neighborhood.  But here's some suggestions to keep your mind busy while on a run:

·         Listen to music or podcasts.  Everyone now has an ipod.  They're perfect for runners.  But if you're running outside, for safety, keep the volume low, or only use one earbud, so you can hear what's going on around you.

·         Run outside!  The treadmill (aka "the dreadmill") is way too boring for me.  I love being outside, taking in the sights as I run.  That's entertainment enough.  Plan your route through someplace scenic, such as a local park.  Or run on a local hiking trail.  With the proper clothing, one can run outside in all seasons, in most every type of weather. (one of my best runs was on a snowy cold day in Colorado)

·         If you must run on a treadmill, position a tv in front of you and catch up on movies, or Netflix series.

·         Run with a friend.  Friends are the best distraction ever! 

·         Use your running time to think through a problem, plan dinner, or brainstorm ideas for work.  It's your quiet alone time to get your thoughts in order.  I often use my run to think up ideas for my blog.

·         Have a mantra.  One of my high school coaches once told me running is 90% mental.  If you think you can, you will.  Find a simple power phrase that you can repeat to yourself when the going gets tough.  (examples:  "I got this"  "I can do this"  "I am strong" "believe" or my personal favorite "kill the hill")

·         If I'm really having a tough day and a difficult run, I remind myself of the people who would like to run, but can't (like my two running buddies who are currently injured).  I remind myself that I'm lucky - I get to run!

One last tip - to keep up your motivation, sign up for a race.  Today, running is a very inclusive sport.  You don't have to be fast, or have a runner's physique.  I see runners of all ages, shapes, and sizes at the races I've participated in.  Most races also allow walkers, and no one minds if you need to take a walk break.  The emphasis is on finishing - not how fast you can cover the distance.  It's very fun to have spectators cheering you on - what other time in life do you get so much positive attention?  It always makes me feel like  a rock star.

Although I've run marathons, and long distance relay races, I still consider finishing my first half marathon my biggest achievement in running.  Training for, and completing this race showed me that if you work hard and stick to your plan, anything is possible. 

I'd like to thank Linda for taking the time to do this great post.  Please go check out her blog.  Not only does she hike the most amazing mountain trails and ski the best places, her photography skills will knock your socks off.