I began running last spring, but I was doing it on my own and suffering through the stupidity of wearing worn shoes and consequentially, shin splints. After wising up and getting new shoes in November, I still continued on my own, with less injury. I took time off in December for the busiest holiday season I’ve had in my adult life. So, I didn’t start training with a running coach until this February.
To my great surprise, my coach began with telling me to be patient. Considering that we’d only just met and that he clearly didn’t know how impatient I am, I cut him some slack and didn’t protest—first impressions and all that. He was direct about how long it could take to get me to a base-level of fitness. Before becoming a yogi, that kind of honesty in relation to my physical fitness and ability would have thrown me into a tailspin full of negative self talk and food restriction as punishment. Armed with a yogi’s approach to exploring new physical challenges, I accepted what my coach was telling me without judging myself, and I committed to our training plan 100%.
Sticking to the plan has conditioned my body to be a better runner. I take shorter walking breaks, and when I walk, it’s more brisk than before. I run farther than I’ve ever run before, too. Physically, I know the plan is working. Moreover, the plan is working on a mental level; and I think it’s made me more patient. The daily commitment to this plan is an active exercise in developing patience. Every day I do my pushups and core work; every day I work on strengthening my legs and improving my breathing; and every day I am slowly working toward a goal that is so far off in the distance that I can barely fathom it.
With each new two-week plan my coach develops for me, he almost always sends words of encouragement as well as caution to remain patient. Again, in the beginning, this really threw me off. My initial perspective was that runners are not supposed to be patient; the goal is to be first. People who are comfortable with waiting around typically are not also motivated to necessarily improve or be competitive. But throughout this process I’m learning that people who are motivated to improve are not necessarily competitive with others. Self competition and self improvement are quite enough for me at this stage of running and fitness. Also, this improvement takes time and daily work, thus patience to stay committed and do the work in spite of being so far removed from “peak” performance that I don’t even have a goal for it.
Room for Improvement
As part of my half marathon race plan, my coach reminded me to be patient—to not let the emotional high of the race experience undo my training. He set time goals for each mile that were challenging but still consistent with my previous long run performance. I did consciously try to stay within those goals, but I’ll admit I definitely got caught up in the adrenaline rush of race day, evident in how fast I ran my first three miles. Looking back on that experience, I see how I am developing the daily patience, but that I still need to work on exercising that patience when it counts on race day.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am focusing on shorter distances and increasing speed over the summer. As part of that goal, I will participate in several 5Ks and 10Ks this summer. The distance may be shorter, and the speed may be picking up, but this requires patience all the same. I ran the first of these 5Ks on April 27th, and as with my other race, my coach sent me a race plan with time goals for each mile split. He also encouraged me to stick to these goals and not let the race day high push me harder or faster than I needed.
This race was only three weeks after my half marathon, so maybe I hadn’t developed adequate stores of patience in that time because I blew our set time goals out of the water. First, maybe this is a good thing. There’s nothing quite like having a goal and consistently running under it throughout an event; it feels amazing. Second and on the flip side, maybe this is how I injured myself.
I finished my first 5K of the summer about two minutes under my goal time, and both my coach and I were proud of my performance. I walked to cool down, stretched, and ate as all runners concerned with post-run recovery do. I went home and spent some quality time with my foam roller and hot shower. Then I napped. When I woke, I felt stiff—not uncommon the evening of a morning race. Ready for a meal, I moved to get out of bed and walk toward my kitchen. My body did not cooperate in the least. Getting out of bed was difficult; and walking was almost impossible as pain radiated from my right hip and groin. Clearly, I’d pushed myself too hard that morning. By that evening when it was hard and uncomfortable to stand, sit, or lie down, I was concerned. I took Aleve and alternated ice and heat as best as I could on my hip (a seriously hard place to reach with ice packs and a heating pad).
Last Sunday, I couldn’t walk without excruciating pain, and I was grateful that it was a rest day. Monday marked a return to my training plan, and with my first steps on the treadmill, I knew running just wasn’t going to happen. I did my mileage on the elliptical instead, and I made sure to let my coach know that I’d deviated from our plan. Tuesday I made an appointment with the Physical Therapist my coach suggested, but to do that, I also had to make an appointment with my primary care doctor. I took the week off from running and from elliptical work, and I just focused on my daily workout of pushups and core work. I stretched and did easy yoga as much as possible, but it seemed nothing was touching the pain in my hip.
I saw my doctor on Friday, and after a brief physical examination, he concluded that it was a hip flexor injury, and he sent me for an x-ray to make sure my hip joint was okay. The x-ray showed signs of “arthritic changing,” which could mean anything from a slight deterioration in cartilage or inflammation to actual arthritis. I’m not entirely sure what the x-ray results mean, but I’ve been advised to give my anti-inflammatory and PT two weeks before returning to the doctor. If things get better, great. If not, then he wants me to get an MRI. We’ll see how things progress.
Unexpected Side Effects
As much as I appreciated the week off from running after my half marathon, I hated last week away from running. I think I was so exhausted during the half-marathon recovery week that the rest was welcome. But last week I was not exhausted. I had only run a 5K. I should have been feeling perfectly normal on Sunday, but I wasn’t. I became increasingly more restless as the week progressed. I couldn’t sleep well, and I woke up several nights with panic attacks and lingering anxiety through the day.
I never thought I’d be one of “those people” who rely on running for anxiety management. Mindful breathing and yoga were my go-to methods, but with the absence from running, they barely seemed to touch my anxiety. I never thought I’d be a person who runs several times a week, either. But now I am, and my body (with all its anxiety) has come to depend on running as an outlet. It was on reflection of these new developments that I realized just how I had become more patient as well as how I need to continue working on it. And now with an injured right hip, I’m getting a full dosage of forced patience.
Life on the Injured List
I started physical therapy yesterday. I’m again grateful for being a yogi throughout this process because I think it gives me the perspective to be very clear when it comes to things going on in my body (Thanks, JN). I gave specific examples of what causes my pain, where it’s painful, and what I’ve been doing to alleviate and compensate for it. For now, I’m taking a prescription-strength anti-inflammatory and will be in physical therapy three times a week. I’m doing my baby exercises in addition to my daily pushups, core work, and elliptical for cardio. I’m biding my time until I can run again. I won’t be running in the 5K this weekend and likely won’t be running in the 10K on the 25th. I’m not even looking beyond the end of this month because I’ve learned that too many things can change in that much time. Maybe I’ll be ready to bounce back stronger than ever by the end of this month. Maybe it will take longer than that; to stay positive, though, I’m trying not to think about that possibility (avoidance is sometimes a useful coping mechanism).
Life on the injured list is depressing and stressful. Whether it’s asthma, ovarian cysts, my weight, or now an injured hip flexor & hip joint, it seems like my body is my greatest adversary when it comes to adopting a healthier, more active lifestyle. Several times in the last week I’ve fallen into the trap of asking why things like this happen to me, and that’s about the most unhelpful thing I could be doing. It doesn’t matter why my body has these challenges or limitations. And finding an answer wouldn’t be helpful either. If I allow myself even the smallest particle of thought that my body may just be designed to be overweight, flabby, and sedentary, then I risk abandoning my current pursuit of an active life. I know it’s also not helpful to have such a rigid perspective. I’m aware that just because I can’t run right now doesn’t mean that I am risking a slip into inactivity. But just as alcoholics and drug abusers require a sense of rigidity to keep them sober, I fear that being too accepting of my limitations will lead to falling off the wagon of my healthy lifestyle. So I acknowledge my obstacles, and I acknowledge that their presence means I need to learn ways around them. But I will not accept that I am made to be an immovable object.
I’ve also questioned whether running is a realistic way for me to be active. As I am queen of unrealistic expectations and stubborn to a fault, I’ve had to seriously consider if what I am doing is right for me. The yogi in me tells me it’s wrong to continue doing something that hurts me. Maybe I should do rowing or pick up cycling? Maybe I need to take an adult swim class at the local Y for no impact cardio? I might try those things, but I’m not giving up on running yet. My physical therapist and running coach both know that I want to return to running, and they’re both committed to making that happen. Now it’s time for me to be both patient and committed to this recovery plan so I can return to running.
Thank YOU for being patient in waiting for this post. It’s been a long time in the making, and as much as I wanted to post this soon after my half marathon, I think the additional time has given me a better perspective on patience and especially of envisioning myself as person with more patience than I thought. Thanks also for reading, as always.
Have you ever come back from an injury? What was that like?
It’s been too long since I’ve put up a proper post. Sorry about that. My hiatus can best be explained as follows:
April 1-7: Week leading up to the half marathon. Not a great week. It took a lot of energy to actually get myself motivated to look forward to the race. Perks of this week included all of the encouragement from my coach, my yoga teacher, and from my friends at church.
April 7: The half marathon. See recap below.
April 8-14: Recovering from the half marathon. See recap below.
April 15-present: Getting back in the swing of things. Busy with PIET work and the final push to Shiloh’s graduation.
2013 Knoxville Half Marathon Review
On Sunday, April 7th, I completed my first half marathon. The week before the event, I wasn’t nearly as excited as my coach and other runners. In the fall, I was looking toward this event as my goal, but training on my own was getting me injured; and I didn’t actually start training with my coach until February, which isn’t enough time to train properly. But, at this stage of my regular training plan, building a base running ability, I was scheduled to do almost 13 miles for my long run anyway. It was perfect timing to do a practice race, too.
Before this event, I’d only ever run 9 miles total; and I was mostly nervous about essentially adding on an additional hour of running without working up to it. Then, when I returned to Facebook and saw everything my husband had done in developing an “entourage,” I started to freak out a little. (My beloved refers to these moments as “onion” moments because I’m apparently layered like an onion. Thanks, babe.) But then my yoga teacher gave me a small dose of common sense. I focused on the running only, and didn’t think about any of the rest.
Of course the first time you do anything, it sets a record, but I set a few personal records at this event, too. For people not in the running world, my time is not impressive at all. For reference, a 91-year old man finished about 10 minutes before I did. He set a world record.(Side note: If I even make it to 91, I’ll want a medal.) What IS impressive is that I did it. I did it with ovarian cyst pain. I did it overweight. I did it as a former asthmatic. I did it as someone who used to be so crippled by depression and anxiety that I’d only ever leave my home to work (and sometimes not even then). So yeah, that’s pretty impressive to me.
3/20/13 Time: 14:28 Ran my first complete mile.
4/6/13 Time: 28:20 Two miles that included walking breaks. Faster than my 1 mile of consistent running.
4/7/13 Half Marathon Records set:
Overall time: 3:18:48
Fastest mile: 13:00 (First mile)
Time: 39:40 Fastest 5K (3.1 miles/First 3 miles)
Time: 14:47 Fastest Finishing mile; I finished way stronger than I thought I could.
Overall, I finished about 20 minutes faster than I anticipated based on my previous long-run performance. I’m pretty proud of that. But I’m also looking to knock at least 30 minutes off my time before my next half marathon, so I’m focusing on ways to improve.
I’d already seen my recovery week plan, so I knew it was going to be a light week. What I didn’t expect was that I’d be so exhausted for so long, and that I’d hurt for as long as I did. When I came home from work almost every night that week, I did restorative yoga and went to bed at least 2 or 3 hours before my regular bedtime. Even though I’ve been getting enough rest, since the race I’ve been waking up exhausted and feeling incredibly run down. My coach told me that it’s typical to have an immunity zap after endurance events; and I’m confident that’s true, but all the pollen doesn’t help either.
As far as pain goes, I know it’s just something that has to work itself out. I know I’m not injured, and I know that I mostly just have to learn how to tolerate a different kind of pain. I can help things along by eating right/frequently enough, drinking enough, sleeping enough, and being mindful while exercising. The week immediately after the race, I was scheduled to log 10 miles, but I only did 2, and I walked it at that. I didn’t stick to my plan because I knew my body was telling me to be gentler than the plan had detailed. So I did restorative yoga and foam rolled like a boss.
Back on Track
The thing about taking time “off” from running is that it sucks coming back. I’ve been “coming back” for the last 10 days. I remember posting something like “2 miles today seems like nothing compared to 13.1 tomorrow” the day before the race. And now, it’s everything I can do to complete a 4-mile run. My body is still kind of recovering, and I know I can push through this; but I have to keep moving to do it. If I take two rest days in a row, I’m such a wimp on the next run. So now I’m back to working the plan. It’s harder because I have a different kind of pain to deal with in the process, but it’s still worth it.
As I mentioned earlier, this event was a training run for my goal event. As you’ve noticed my race countdown in the margin, I was set to participate in the first ever Mountain Mommas ½ Marathon in Sevierville, TN on Mother’s Day (May 12th). Unfortunately, the race was canceled due to low registration, which is certainly a wrench in my plan. I asked my coach if we should focus on 5Ks and 10Ks over the summer and set another goal for the Bluegrass Half Marathon in Johnson City on September 22nd. That’s exactly what he wants to do. We’re going to continue to build a base running fitness and start working on speed. First step, reduce the walking breaks to 30 seconds, and walk more briskly & upright.
In the meantime, I’m updating my countdown for the September event because that’s my goal, but I’ll actually be participating in several smaller events before then. If you’re local and want to hang, here’s my schedule:
Saturday, April 27th Dogwood 5K
Saturday, May 11th Run for Clean Air 5K
Saturday, May 25th KTC Expo 10K
Saturday, June 1st, Run for the Rose 5K
Wednesday, July 3rd, Pilot Fireball Classic 5k
Saturday, August 10th, Color Me Rad 5K
Room for Improvement
Clearly, I expect to improve my performance over time; and to do that I’m sticking to the training plan because it works well. But I need to focus on at least two other areas, too: diet and yoga. Since February, I’ve significantly increased my cardio work as well as general fitness (pushups, core work, leg strengthening). The result has been a change in my metabolism, which affects my hormones and my ovarian cysts. These changes are good in the long-run, but any changes with hormones are difficult to endure even if the end result is positive. I’ve been advised to focus on a diet of low-glycemic foods to help regulate my metabolism, so that’s where I’ll start.
With yoga, I just need to do more of it. So far I’ve been focused on running and strength training geared specifically for running. I’ve done yoga, but it’s mostly restorative. I’m not knocking it because clearly my body needs it; but my mental health balance needs regular, moderately challenging yoga. I’m noticing the twinges of easy irritability and difficulty with meditation. I’m noticing more resistance to change and less mindfulness of the moment. Yoga has been the best thing for me in conquering these challenges. Like being thirsty though, once you recognize it, you’re already dehydrated. While I’m also working my way back into running, I also want to focus more on working back into a challenging yoga practice.
Realistic Goal Setting & Scheduling
So far I’ve mentioned three areas of focus (running, dieting, and yoga), and putting time and attention into this many things is a lot for someone who also works full time and volunteers part time. I’ve learned through reading Zen Habits that making lifestyle changes requires focus and action on small, frequent habits as opposed to large goals. Fortunately, my running plan is something my coach puts together. I don’t have to think about it; I just do it. I’ve also already got an awesome yoga practice; I just need to do it, too. Putting together a detailed diet plan takes several hours of research, planning, shopping, and meal prepping. If that’s the only thing I need to do on my own, it doesn’t seem like much; but the challenge lies in finding the time to do it all.
Because it’s starting to get hot, I’ll be returning to early morning practices. I hate waking up so early, but it’s the only way I can feasibly see myself running through the summer. It’s more of an environmental constraint than anything, and I just have to accept it. With early morning practices, I can focus on doing my restorative yoga on those afternoons/evenings. On cross training days, I’ll do the elliptical and yoga instead of either/or. I’ll be building the near-daily habit of exercising early every morning (cardio/endurance) and every evening (yoga). I’ll still take my weekly rest day, too.
So, I need help with the diet. Do any of you pay attention to glycemic index? Have you researched it? I’ve done the cursory Google search, but I’d like more than that. If you have any low glycemic index meals, please share the recipes! I’ll spend some time researching/planning on my next rest day, and I’ll check back here for any tips you want to leave.
Thanks for reading and come back for more on my Knoxville Half Marathon experience in The Friends Who Waited.
Running is essentially a minimalist sport. As long as you have properly fitted shoes, you’re good. But if you’re running several times a week, long distances, or in extreme weather conditions, then you might benefit from perusing the list I’ve assembled here. I’ve saved the blush-worthy stuff for last.
When I began running last spring, I was wearing tennis shoes I’d had for at least a decade. Not only were the soles worn down before I logged my first mile, but the foot bed was actually separating from the sole. The condition of my shoes was embarrassing, but more than that, it made me prone to some typical beginner injuries. Because the shoes were not providing any cushion to my feet, my joints (ankles, knees, hips) along with all the bones in between were absorbing the shock of pounding my feet against pavement. In just a week I had developed shin splints, partially from starting out doing too much, but mostly from the piss poor condition of my shoes and what I was putting myself through running in them.
As smart as I am, it took me much too long to wise up and be fitted for new shoes, and I can’t believe all the difference it’s made. I’m running in Brooks Ghost 5’s, and I think that’s a good fit for me as a beginner. Though I’m learning that it’s not preferable to run with your mid-foot or heel striking the ground, it’s common for beginners, so having a shoe with a strong and cushioned mid-foot/heel makes it much easier. Also, I really like the mesh tops; they may not be ideal for running in the rain, but the mesh is fabulous for giving your feet some air to breathe.
When I was doing my online research in preparation for spending $100-150 on running shoes, I really thought I’d go for Mizunos, but when I was actually fitted, Brooks were better for me. So, don’t rely solely on an online review (like this one) to make your choice. Go to a local running store (not just Foot Locker or an athletics store, go to an actual running store), and have them properly fit you. They’ll likely make you walk around in your socks or barefeet, and they may even have you run a bit for them. When you try on the shoes, they should let you run around in them (and not just in the store), so you can get a good feel for them. You don’t need to run a mile or anything, but a quick jog around the parking lot will let you know if they’re the right fit or not.
This sounds like a no brainer, but you need water to run, and you need it stored up over time. I haven’t figured out my running hydration schedule just yet, but I have increased my overall water intake. To do this, I set an alarm on my phone. It goes off every single day at 10:00, 12:00, 2:00, 4:00, and 8:00, and I drink a red SOLO cup full of water each time it goes off. I try to pace myself so I’m not downing 16 oz of water, but sometimes that happens. This is all in addition to any water I drink while I’m working out (which is usually between the 4pm-8pm water alarms, or it’s at 5AM).
In drinking this much water, I’ve noticed that my muscles are not as sore both immediately after exercising and hours/days afterward. I’ve also noticed that I don’t get tired as soon into my workouts as I was before. I’m not certain about the myths of eating less because of drinking more, but I will say that I’m less likely to put food in my mouth when I’m drinking this much water. However, I think that has more to do with a psychological oral fixation than it does with calories or a physiological sense of “feeling full.”
The one side effect of this much water is that I pee all the time. I am now the cliché chick who has to pee almost every hour. It’s a pain when I’m working and have to be outside as well as when the urge strikes me in the middle of a long run. I know for a fact I won’t be able to pull off driving from Johnson City, TN to Lansing, Michigan with only stopping once in Cincinnati, Ohio ever again as long as I’m drinking water like I am now, but that’s why astronauts wear diapers when they’re driving long distances to stalk their unrequited loved ones, isn’t it?
As with the water intake, building up a good storage of nutritious food helps me make it to and through my runs. I’ve noticed that when I eat crappy food and then run, I feel absolutely horrible. My stomach cramps; I don’t have the energy to run the intervals I’m supposed to run; and when I’ve eaten poorly, it usually means I also haven’t had enough water because somehow those things tend to go hand-in-hand. On the flip side, if I eat meals that sustain me and release energy over a long period of time (fish and avocados are just a couple items!), then I have the energy I need to make it through my day AND through my workouts. Variety in a diet is nice, but as it happens with most people, I have developed a bit of a diet rut, and I like it that way. After experiencing so many digestive issues, I don’t mind having a limited diet if it means everything I eat agrees with me and sustains me. Some of the things I eat on a regular basis are:
Oatmeal—I LOVE the Banana Bread flavored oatmeal, and I want to learn to make it on my own, cheaper than the pre-packaged kind that I can only get when my husband decides to go to the hell that is Wal-Mart, which is rare.)
Nutri-grain fruit cereal bars & Nature Valley Chewy Protein Granola Bars
Cinnamon Raisin Bagels (with 1 tbsp of peanut butter)—this with a banana is my PERFECT post-workout recovery meal.
Chocolate Milk—I’ve decided to write Weigel’s a letter asking them why they put crack cocaine in their chocolate milk because that has to be what they’re doing. There is absolutely NO comparison to Weigel’s milk. Mayfield’s chocolate milk is too thick, and Kroger brand chocolate milk is very clearly regular milk with knock-off Hershey’s syrup added. Weigel’s Chocolate Milk is where it’s at. And if you’re not from Knoxville, I’d consider moving to the area. I’m telling you it has to have crack in it.
Bananas—not only is this a catchy Gwen Stefani song, but it’s a great fruit to eat right after a run. I’m considering putting the chocolate milk, bananas, and peanut butter together and just ingesting it in shake-form for my post-workout recovery because those are three of my top favorite things to eat right now.
Any type of berry—Berries in season are best because they’re cheapest and taste the best, so I only eat these as I can get them. Blackberries might be my favorite, but I think that’s only childhood nostalgia from picking them and eating them wild. Strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries come in as a close second to blackberries.
Pomegranates—Yes, they’re messy, but they’re so tasty it’s worth it. I don’t eat these too frequently, but they are a nice treat.
Lean Protein—I was a lacto-ovo vegetarian for almost a decade. After a whole host of digestive problems, from which I’ll spare you the gory details, I have abandoned my reliance on soy and beans as my sole sources of protein. I started eating fish first, and this year I’ve added chicken and (occasionally some turkey) back into my diet. I had to start with slow and small increments, and I still don’t eat meat every week; but I’m at the point that I do crave it now. That progress aside, I’m fairly certain I’ll never eat beef or pork (yuck!), and I still love veggie burgers when they’re made right and they’re gluten/soy free!
Avocadoes—I’m not sure I buy into the marketing of “superfoods,” but if there is such a thing in reality, avocadoes would be at the top of my list. Aside from just being yummy (on their own in salads, topping sandwiches/wraps, as a mayo substitute, in tacos, or in guacamole, etc.), I think they are awesome at sustaining me. I’ve always like them, but I fell in love with them last year when I was doing Yogic Lent, and only eating once a day, in the evenings. I would routinely eat sushi with avocado, and the combination of the fish/rice/avocado seriously kept me going through that whole process. Now that I’m running, I rely on avocados in my regular diet either at breakfast or lunch to sustain me through my busy day and into my workouts.
Greek Yogurt—I tried regular yogurt and just couldn’t get past the sliminess of it. The taste wasn’t really bad, but the texture killed me. So, I tried the Greek version instead. It’s thicker because it’s strained, and that removes the slimy factor. I’ve tried Oikos and Yoplait brands, and I like them both just fine. I prefer the ones that come with granola because I like the texture even more, but they’re good on their own, too.
Soups—I eat a variety of soups for lunch several times a week. They are a great, easy meal that can be prepped well in advance, and soups have as many nutritious benefits as they do variety in taste. I prefer chicken broth based soups, and will not eat soups with beef broth or a cream base. I like lentil soup, too, but I tend to stay away from frequent fiber intake, so I eat it sparingly. The soups I eat tend to serve as a nutritious, yet light meal, as I prefer not eating too much in one sitting.
Steamed Veggies & Rice—I love pairing a lean protein with these sides! I generally don’t need a sauce or much seasoning to flavor because I actually enjoy the taste of steamed vegetables as they are, but every now and then I’ll buy a bag of pre-seasoned vegetables for steaming, or I’ll season up some olive oil and bake the veggies instead of steaming them.
On a normal day, I’ll eat oatmeal for breakfast with a banana. I’ll have either a nutri-grain bar or a Greek yogurt at mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack, and sometimes I’ll have both snacks if I’m hungry enough. For lunch, I’ll have either a soup or a salad (The Chopped Chicken Cobb with Avocadoes and no Bacon is my favorite thing from Panera!). The one meal I typically skimp on is dinner for several reasons. Dinner is usually my post-workout meal, and I’m more likely to eat a bagel with peanut butter and chocolate milk than anything else, though sometimes I’ll eat steamed rice, veggies, and a lean protein. I never turn down dinner on taco night, though. I love having breakfast foods for dinner, and if I don’t limit myself to my post-workout meal, then I might have cereal or even waffles for dinner. I also like to keep dinner light because I generally eat it very close to my bedtime, and I just don’t need a lot of food on my stomach at that time of my day.
Of course, I have weaknesses just like any other person. My particular weakness is pretty much anything candy related. I like sour, gummy candy as well as rich, chocolate/caramel candy. It’s all bad for me, but I’ve found a few ways to make healthier substitutes. First, Unreal candy is amazing. It’s made with all-natural ingredients and without preservatives. It’s not healthy for you, but it’s nowhere near as bad for you as regular candy. I highly recommend it for die hard sugar fiends as a healthier alternative. Also, substituting other foods for the type of flavor I’m craving tends to work for me. When I crave something sour and gummy, I’ll eat blackberries, blueberries, or raspberries. When I crave something sweet, I’ll eat trail mix with dried fruit in it instead of chocolate. And sometimes I go for the gusto and eat the chocolate because that’s just how life goes. Nutella is a household staple for these occasions.
Clothes don’t really “make the man,” but sometimes they really help the running experience. Last year I wasn’t running at all, so the only experience I have with running clothing has been what I’ve acquired since last fall. Because I hate going shopping and because I started running in the spring/summer, I just wore my yoga pants and a cotton t-shirt or tank top just starting out. It really didn’t make much difference to me, and I don’t have much to report on summer running attire.
Because I loathe running on the treadmill, I knew I’d need some kind of winter running clothing to get me through even our mild winters here in TN. I purchased a Nike brand Dri-Fit top very similar to this one, though without the hoodie. It has thumb holes, which I like, and it has retro-reflective striping on the wrists and along the sides in case the fluorescent yellowish green isn’t visible enough. I like that it keeps me dry because sweating in cold weather is about the most uncomfortable thing I have experienced while running this winter. It’s rather thin, and I tend to be hot, so I’ll wear this when it’s between 30-50°F outside. If it’s warmer than 50°F, then I’ll just wear my t-shirt/tank and yoga pant combo. If it’s colder than 30°F, I wear my Champion brand fleece-lined hoodie. It’s bright orange, so again very visible, and it’s thicker than my Nike shirt. I wore it this morning when it was right around 30°F and snowing outside, and I was just fine.
Additional apparel I wear as needed are my earmuff band and gloves. I would like to get some leggings just for running, but I’ve yet to find any that come in my size that aren’t also about a foot too long for me. I would also like to get a water-resistant shell/outer layer so I’m not immediately forced to use the treadmill on the cold/rainy days. I’m not sure I’d be bothered with rain running in July or August because the heat and humidity here in TN is the reason Southern Debutantes take afternoon siestas, but I’ll let you know how I actually feel about that after doing it a few times.
Other things that I haven’t purchased yet are new sports bras and socks. Quality sports bras are incredibly expensive, and they’re worth it, especially for large breasted women. I’ve yet to be satisfied with any of the types I’ve tried, and they’re just too expensive (for me) to justify buying more without having lost more weight/size. Sports bras are way important, and I do need some good ones, but I’m kind of at the end of my rope and budget right now when it comes to this undergarment; so I’ll make do with what I currently have. Also underrated are socks. If your socks are too thick or too thin, you’ll have issues with blisters and discomfort while running. It’s important to try out different types, but again, that can be a costly trial and error, especially if you get socks specifically designed for running.
As I’ve increased my mileage according to the training plan, my running coach has asked me to start working on my nutrient replenishment while running. Other than drinking water whenever I’m thirsty, I don’t have a set hydration plan. My nutrient replenishment plan is to use a Gu-Gel at 3 miles and then every 30 minutes thereafter. I’ve only tried Gu-Gel once so far, though I have a long run tomorrow which will likely use up the rest of my Gu wares. The one I tried was the Vanilla Bean flavored gel, and it wasn’t bad. I definitely needed to swish with water afterward because it’s essentially gel based sugar, so it’s very sticky. For tomorrow’s long run, I’ll be using blueberry flavored Gu Chomps and the Just Plain Gu-Gel pack, and I’ll let you know how those taste.
The purpose of replenishing nutrients in the middle of an endurance workout is to replace the glycogen that’s been burned off so you can keep going. Though I don’t do it (yet), some athletes carbo-load to build up their supply of stored carbohydrates. I think most people are probably doing this wrong because I typically see them eating a huge portion of carbs (usually pasta) the night before a big event. It seems that they’d probably be better served by slowly increasing their carbs throughout the entire week or 10 days prior to the event, but I’m not a nutritionist or kinesiology specialist, and I have no experience on which to base that opinion. It’s just a hunch, and an unverified one at that because I need to keep my carbs low and restricted to very specific carbs for digestive purposes.
As a self-proclaimed technophile, I love most gadgets. But as a person on a budget, I can’t afford them. Before I won my Garmin 210 (which was awesome, thank you Autumnfest 8K!), I just used the GPS on my phone with the Runtastic app. I already had a smartphone, so there was no extra expense there, and the Runtastic app is free. Map My Run is also a good app to use with your smartphone. But, I love my Garmin. It’s not clunky like a lot of the GPS fitness watches are, and it doesn’t have a lot of buttons or settings to confuse the novice runner/gadgeteer.
I would like to get the foot-pod that goes with the Garmin so I can measure my cadence and also use it when I run on the treadmill, but that’s about $60 that I think could be better invested elsewhere currently. Garmin also makes a heart rate monitor strap thing, but I think that’s just too many bells and whistles even for me.
Because I’m not a “real runner,” I rely on music to keep me going, but I also need to be safe and aware of my surroundings. So, I use Yurbuds because they really do stay in while I’m running and because I don’t have to turn the music up very loud at all to hear, which allows me to still hear ambient noises around me; and this is my current running playlist, but you’ll need Spotify to play it. I do pay for Spotify Premium so I can download my playlist to my phone and not have to rely on a data signal to stream the music. I love every song on my running playlist, but if I had to pick my top three songs right now, they’d be Alicia Keys’ Girl on Fire (because I am), Mumford & Sons Hopeless Wanderer (because I’m that, too) and Arctic Monkeys’ I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor (because everyone should listen to British neo-garage/punk, especially while running).
Maybe it’s my inner-Batman dying to get out, but I seriously need a utility belt for running, and I think this will be my next purchase. I need a place to store my water and Gu, keys, ID/debit card, and possible shank/pepper spray personal safety device. Running while holding a water bottle has gotten way old, way quick on my long runs, so a place to store my water bottle would be awesome. I’d also be interested in using a CamelBak because I do require a LOT of water. (You wouldn’t believe how much I sweat and thus need to replenish.)
So far, most of my list has been pretty tame and even predictable. But there are some things that people just don’t talk about, unless it’s a weird fetish chat room on the Internet. I’m breaking down that barrier right here and now. Hide yo’ kids, and hide yo’ wife, ‘cause it’s about to get real.
Gold Bond Powder—for me, this is a must. Not only am I a person with bags of flesh hanging off the front of my chest, but my bags of flesh are of the larger variety. And when sweat accumulates in these areas, things like heat rash, skin irritation, and breakouts happen, all of which are unbelievably uncomfortable; but to add a bit of fear factor, if these things are left untreated, it can lead to a staph bacterial infection, which is just horrendous (no personal experience, thank you gods). I’m sure if I wore a better sports bra, my lady bits wouldn’t be moving around as much, and there likely wouldn’t be as much skin-on-skin contact/irritation, but that’s not the case. So, I powder up. It’s messy, and it smells weird, but it protects my skin and lady parts, so I deem it very worth it.
Some people use liquid/gel products that roll on for chafing, and I think I might try that for the mild chafing I get from wearing my arm band. Right now, wearing yoga pants, I don’t have an issue with chafing on my inner-thighs, but I can totally see that as a possibility when it warms up and I have to switch to shorts. (FYI, the mere thought of running in shorts scares me. People really don’t need to be exposed to that, and I particularly don’t want to be the one inspiring all the cottage cheese-related catcalls. But, if I’m out there literally busting my ass in a TN summer, then fear be damned; I’ll wear the shorts.)
The Foam Roller—in the right crowd, this could be marketed as a marital aid. But for the running crowd, this is how you target the knots at the tops of the hips, the tightness in the quads and shins, and the tension in the upper mid-back. As anti-consumerist as I try to be, I was super skeptical about paying $30 for what’s essentially a hard pool noodle. But after using it, I swear by it. Every single time I’m finished running, I use the foam roller, and you wouldn’t believe the groans and grunts I make in the process. The first 5 seconds hurts, but then you settle in, and it somehow releases all this tension; clouds part and angels sing. 30 seconds of targeted pressure is really all you need. I’m not sure if you can “over do it” with a foam roller, but I wouldn’t want to spend a whole lot of time. And that’s why it’s so amazing; with very little effort and time, and after stretching, you can seriously help reduce your recovery time by using this glorified pool noodle. Well worth the $30. Also, immature spouses and children can get hours of merriment out of playing with it. My husband has been walking around the house using it as a light saber against my dog, Moose for the last three weeks. Little does he know, Moose is a Jedi Master. He better tread lightly with that foam roller.
Massage—There are benefits to having a touchy-feely partner, and this is one of them. Since I’ve started working out with Knoxville Endurance, (a.k.a. for the last four weeks), my husband has given me a leg and back massage once a week. He would do it on occasion before, but now it’s a weekly treat that I always look forward to. He’s not certified as a massage therapist, but he knows my body. I love this little indulgence, and it keeps me going more than you’d imagine. I have to give my beloved all the credit here, but I would recommend regular sports massages as often as you can afford it. I may break down and actually support one of the many local massage therapists I know at the yoga studio, but until then, my husband will have his hands full.
I think that covers all the typical and awkward things I’ve currently experienced, but as I live and breathe, I’m certain I’ll add to this particular part of the list with more logged miles, so I’ll keep it updated regularly. Are there any tips (or awkward stories) you’d like to share? Feel as free as lady bits flapping in the wind and comment below!
When I started my day Wednesday, I knew I wasn’t going to do my weekly social run; I was just too tired…even at the beginning of the day. I’ve had a headache and upset stomach since Saturday. It’s nothing serious–just enough to make me exhausted all week. Maybe it was taking care of my sick husband last week. Maybe it’s the general stress of the approaching holiday. Maybe it’s just my body telling me I need physical rest. Whatever the cause, the exhaustion has taken its toll on me, and my workouts have definitely suffered for it. I did get some sleep Wednesday night so I told myself yesterday that no matter what happened, I would make up Wednesday’s run…and I did exactly that.
When I got home from work, I did some yoga and then hit the treadmill. It was my first treadmill run in months, and I kind of feel like it was cheating because it wasn’t outside with inclines and weather conditions outside of my control; but I know it’s better than doing nothing at all. I set out to run far enough to make up for not running Wednesday, but I really wanted to make it to six miles, and I did! I have NEVER run that far in my life. It’s a huge achievement for me, and I was astonished when I was finished. Despite being run down all week; despite working all day outside; and despite having done some fairly strenuous yoga just before my run, I ran six freaking miles! No, my time is not impressive, but I ran six freaking miles! You want to know what got me through?
All of the songs on my playlist do something for me. They motivate me to move; help me control my breathing and cadence; encourage me to keep going; let me know this isn’t going to kill me; make me laugh just when I think I might cry from the desperation; make me cry out of joy instead of desperation; and make me feel victorious for being so danged successful. I’m glad no one else was in the gym last night when I was running, because all of the above happened last night. Seriously. I was proud the first time I ran 5K. I was proud the first time I ran 8K. This wasn’t really that much more in distance than my weekly Wednesday runs, but it was almost a quarter of a marathon, and it meant so much to me that I did it.
As I am in the VERY beginning stages of training for my first half-marathon, it seems like a lot of uphill, far-off goals. Knowing just how much work I have ahead of me is easily discouraging. Being so far away from conditioned and able to do something like this means I can’t really envision myself being successful. It makes me question all the discomfort and sweat and general hard work that it takes. In this way I think doing races or focusing on smaller intermediate goals can be helpful, so that’s what I try to do. But still, I know that in four months I will be running 13.1 miles, and I have a hard time believing I can actually do it. When I ran six miles last night, it was the first time I ever thought I could really do this, and it was a remarkable breakthrough.
The United States Marine Corps
As cheesy as it sounds, when the U.S. Marines start singing “Gotta lotta lotta, gotta lotta motivation. Gotta lotta lotta, gotta lotta dedication,” I am renewed to the commitment I made to myself to run in the Covenant Health Half Marathon. Running to diddies is great for helping me keep a good cadence and breath control, and they help me not over-exert myself in the beginning, which is why I stack the first half of my playlist with them. I have long believed that the United States Marine Corps is the most advanced military force in our country’s history; in keeping with my general sentiments for the Marines, after listening to other branches’ diddies, yet again I’m convinced that the Marines are the best.
Though I rarely ever listen to rap due to its general lack of musicality, its overwhelming objectification of women, and its tendency to keep minorities scrambling among themselves to live in oppression, I feel so full of possibility when I run to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.” When Eminem says (raps?) “success is my only m-f option, failure’s not,” I know I have to press through, despite the stitch in my side and how tired I am. When he ends the song with telling me I can do anything I set my mind to, I know he’s right.
The Placebo Effect
When I reach the point where I really think I am ready to give up (just after “It’s the End of the World As We Know It,” lol), I hear Placebo’s version of “Running Up That Hill.” I take that song as an opportunity to slow down, regroup, and climb the hill (or mountain) of self defeat.
“Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” gives me perspective as I pick up my pace. It was what told me I knew I was going to reach six miles yesterday. I will eventually get faster, but right now I’m working on “Better” and “Stronger” because I’m pushing myself “Harder.” At this point in last night’s run, I told myself I COULD run a half marathon in April because I am about to run a quarter marathon right now.
I love the Foo Fighters, and I listen to them at some point every single day. They’re angry and happy at the same time, and I think they know something about struggling just to survive. When I run, I love the pace they set for me, but I mostly love their lyrics. I have “My Hero” set to play about 2/3 of the way through my list, and it encourages me that though I am ordinary, I am my own hero. My husband has told me several times recently that when he first met me, I was adamant that I was not a runner and would never be a runner. I would tell him that I had bad knees, and that I had horrible asthma as a kid, so I would never be a runner. But now I am running. I am doing things I never thought possible. I am not extraordinary at them. I am not trying to win a race or qualify for the Boston Marathon. I am just trying to run without it killing me. And I ‘m doing it. In this way, I am my own unbelievably ordinary hero, and it feels amazing.
Florence + The Machine
When I hear “Dog Days are Over,” instead of running for my mother and father and sister and brother as the lyrics go, I run for myself. I run to see what I can do, how far I can go, how fast I can do it. It is something only I can do for myself, and I feel this way only through running. Yoga is amazing, and I have a feeling that even when I’m old and decrepit, and unable to run, I will still be doing yoga. I do feel a sense of accomplishment from doing yoga, and I love when I can do new poses; but none of that compares to how I felt last night. This is why people run. This is why I run. I’ve been trying to figure out just why I’m doing all this to myself, and last night I found it. This incredible accomplishment that only I can give myself is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done in my life. Of course I will put everything I have into this process when I know I can feel this way afterward.
Last night, by the time I heard “Praise You,” I was so proud of what I had done. It’s a great song to listen to on a regular basis, but for running, it definitely gets me through those final feelings of self-defeat when I normally feel like I’m going to collapse. Keeping up the steam at the end is more than just a little challenging, but celebrating myself gives me just a bit of umph to get through it. I think Walt Whitman would definitely approve of both the song and of the way I am practicing, and that alone is quite motivating.
I’m sure I will have hard days in the next four months. I’m sure there will be times I’m convinced I can’t do it. But I have this post to remind me that I can. I wrote this for myself, but if you need a bit of encouragement in your own pursuit of whatever you may have thought was previously impossible, then this post is for you, too. Listen to great music. Let it move you, internally and physically. Find what motivates you, and surround yourself with it. I CAN do this, and so can you.
In An Exploration of Masochism I committed myself to six solid weeks of weekly running with the Knoxville Track Club’s Wednesday Night Runners (WNR). I then detailed a six-week training plan to help me be organized and stay focused. Since then, I’ve purchased new running shoes and increased my distance. Last week, as the culmination of my six-week promise and plan, I ran in two races, a 5K on Sunday and my first ever 8K on Thanksgiving Day. I also let these two events gauge whether I should begin training for the Knoxville Half Marathon in April.
Moving from solo to social running has been quite a transition in both the “social” and “running” aspects. Socially, the runners are encouraging and passionate about running. Though they certainly take running seriously, they don’t seem to take much else too seriously. They love getting together to have a good time, and they’ve turned exercising (ugh…) into something to look forward to and even something to celebrate. They encourage me to get out, and once I’m there, some of them have literally gone out of their ways to keep me going. Just getting to know these awesome and inspirational people is my greatest source of motivation for sticking with it.
I have to admit, though, I’d really enjoy the whole experience more if I could actually run with them. Seriously, I am kicking last place’s arse! Yes, last place, always and by far. On that note, the 8K was my first race on the Socialites “team,” and I think I owe them a bit of an explanation. I joined without understanding anything about the KTC Grand Prix series and team rankings, etc. Essentially, I just did it for the extra discount on the registration price, and because LC is way helpful with taking care of that whole process (KUDOS!!!) So for those of you who do take this running thing seriously, but who have the social grace to refrain from mentioning it: I’m sorry for bringing the time down in this last race of the season. If I had anything to do over again, it would be running it on my own. That being said, next year will be different; I’m sure of it.
I’m going the distance…
Physically, I have increased my distance, but not necessarily improved my time. I was typically running about 2 miles each time I ran, and I was doing that 2-3 times a week. Now, I’m running a minimum of 4 miles each run at least twice a week. I also devote one day each week to an hour long elliptical run. Clearly, I am building endurance at this stage, and it’s paying off in the way I feel after my runs. I can go farther; I feel better immediately after; and I need less recovery time. Yesterday I ran almost 5.5 miles, and I don’t want to die or even curse profusely.
Though my time is not impressive (actually it’s embarrassing, quite frankly), I am ecstatic every time I make it just a little bit farther. I know I need to improve my time, and I’m hoping this is something that works itself out with continued consistent practice. Group training for the half marathon starts this weekend, but the runners need to be able to run 3 miles as a starting point. I’m not able to do that (yet); so I’ll keep running on my own for now with a goal of joining them in January.
My intuition is telling me to keep up the endurance work, but to work on getting stronger in my legs, quads, and core. So, I will change up my home yoga practice and maybe try out a few new classes. I’m also thinking of introducing two-a-day sessions on Saturdays and Sundays with endurance in the morning and strength-training in the evenings. We’ll see how far that goes. I’m not entirely confident I’m motivated enough to do all that; but considering I never thought I’d even be doing what I am now, I won’t rule out success as a possibility.
Feeding the Machine
In researching training for a long race like a half-marathon or a marathon, I’ve found diet and hydration are incredibly important, but I’m overwhelmed with all the meal plans, gels, bars, powders, etc. I’ve learned from experience to bring water along on runs of 3 miles or more, but at what distance (or length of time running???) do I need to consider a gel or type of refueling while running? How many of you carbo-load, and how do you go about it? The diet that works best for my weight loss is one low in carbs, and eating even moderate amounts of fiber, whether on running days or not, makes running more uncomfortable and challenging than I think it should be. (That’s really the most tactful way to put it, but yes, I totally just went there.) So, I don’t know how carb-loading (or other pre-race diets) would work for me.
Then there’s my regular diet. Since re-gaining my appetite after Yogic Lent in the spring, I eat close to 300 calories every three or four hours. But since I’ve been running longer and farther, I’ve noticed a significant increase in my appetite, and I’m definitely feeding it. There have been times these last three weeks especially that I’ve surprised myself at how much I’ve been able to eat in one meal. It’s not affecting my weight; in fact, I’ve lost weight these last three weeks!
I know that in order to do more, I need more fuel, but I think I also need to be specific about exactly what I’m eating. I eat granola and trail mix for breakfast and snacks throughout the day, and I eat my fair share of fruits and veggies daily. I’ve been eating fish up to twice a week for over a year, and poultry once a week for about the last five months. Do I need more protein? More carbs? Meal replacements like bars or shakes? What do you eat to keep you going? I’d really appreciate your suggested recipes for half-marathon/marathon training meal plans! When I find things that work, I’ll make sure to share them.
Gear and Gadgets
Any time someone tells me, “Buying X will improve Y about you,” they tend to transform into a dodgy character from a Flannery O’Connor story right before my eyes (ew…Manley Pointer). I am generally a skeptical person, so that may just be it; but even more so when faced with tying consumerism to self improvement. No magic pills or fad diets (or special shoes) can ever replace the transformation of actual work because I’m not “just” trying to lose weight. I’m pushing myself to see what I’m capable of doing. And then every time I reach a milestone, I push a little more. Would I be changing my life like this if it came in a pill? Would I feel this strong?
And yet, I have to admit buying a new pair of shoes immediately improved my running. In my old shoes, I could feel violent tremors through my ankles, shins, and knees every time my foot hit the road. It was so bad I couldn’t run a quarter-mile without needing to stop due to pain, and it hurt for two/three days afterward. Actually, I think my shins and knees are still recovering from all of that needless torture. Even with that residual (and decreasing) discomfort, I am now running farther and with shorter recovery periods than ever before, so the shoes are amazing. A huge thank you goes to the Runner’s Market for the great fitting.
I’ve also been running using my phone for music and GPS tracking. I use the runtastic app to log my running (and other activities), and it uses my phone’s GPS system. The app is free, and I get GPS service included in my phone’s plan, so I don’t incur any charges doing this. But, sometimes my phone loses GPS, and the app stops working; and using my phone as an mp3 player, GPS system, and fitness tracker all at once is a huge drain on my phone’s battery. What do you want for free, huh?
Well…at the 8K, I won a super spiffy Garmin wristwatch (clearly not for performance; it was a raffle prize for donating cans in a food drive at the event). The watch takes care of the GPS, and I can upload the runs directly into runtastic when I get home. I’ve only used it a few times now, but it seems to be both easy to use and reliable. This means I can use my phone for music only, which does wonders for my battery life.
As a reward for completing my first 8K, and out of necessity for running outside in the winter, I purchased two running shirts and an ear warmer on Black Friday. I’ve run in and washed each of the shirts once now, and I will give a proper performance review after a few more uses. Right now, I’m impressed. The shirts seem to be really thin, but they keep me warm and dry. Again, I’ll give a proper review in about a month.
All of this goes to show that while running is certainly a minimalist sport, investing in shoes is absolutely necessary; and gadgets/gear can make the process much more enjoyable and conducive to performance training.
Hopefully through amping up my strength training, finding the right training meal plan for me, and with the right winter gear, I will make it through the winter and to the half-marathon. (And I’ll still party even if I finish in last place!)