Once upon a time, about 6 years ago, there was a young woman that decided she wanted to run a 5K. Now, this girl was not a runner. In fact, she hated running. But for some reason, she decided she wanted to run and she dragged her mother along with her. The women trained for the 5K, ran it (incredibly slowly) and then did not run again.
Fast forward 6 years and we meet those ladies again. The younger, who always seems to be full of these bad ideas, suggests that they run another 5K. They did it once before and they could do it again, right? Let’s not forget the fact that the younger woman is in significantly worse shape than she was 6 years ago, so this little foray into running should be extra exciting.
The ladies are training again and the 5K is rapidly approaching. The younger woman (who still hates running) frequently questions her sanity in regards to running, but is determined to make it through yet another 5K, no matter how slowly she runs it.
If you haven’t guessed it by now, my mom and I are running a 5K this weekend. We’ve been training for several weeks and while it’s gotten some easier, I’m just praying that the endorphins get me through the thing.
While I wouldn’t consider myself an expert in running by any means, I do make an effort to run and I’ve come a long way over the last couple of months. Today I’m going to share with you a few tips and tricks I’ve learned as a non-runner that’s running.
(As always, I’m not a medical professional, although I’m married to one. See your doctor before beginning any kind of strenuous exercise.)
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Have a plan in mind
There have been times – ok, I can only think of one – where I just went out and ran. I had no idea how far or how long I was going to go. I was upset, so I ran. Actually, I went a lot farther and longer than I thought I could, but it was a one-time thing fueled by unrequited love, so I don’t really think that counts.
As far as training goes, a plan is a must. It doesn’t matter if that plan is “I’m going to run to that mailbox and then walk until I get to that tree,” or if you use an app that times you or calculates distance. Having some kind of plan gives you some structure to your training and something to measure yourself against.
Both times we’ve trained for a 5K, my mom and I have used Couch to 5K. The basic idea of Couch to 5K is that you gradually increase the time spent running until you are running for 30 minutes straight. There are many variations of the walk/run intervals, but all of them that I’ve seen will get you from running for a minute or so to eventually doing 30 minutes. Most of them span 7-8 weeks and require you to run 3 times a week. You can find a plan by searching online or you can download an app that will tell you when to run and walk. This time around we used this app (not an affiliate link) and have enjoyed it.
When I decided that I wanted to start running again, I knew that I was going to need some running shoes. The sneakers I had been wearing were old and didn’t have a whole lot of cushion left in them. Add that to the fact that this time I was running with quite a bit of extra weight, I knew that it was in the best interest of my feet to get some legit running shoes.
I found a local running store that specializes in fitting running shoes and I would definitely suggest it if you have the means to go that route. It was a little bit of an investment money-wise, so I made myself earn it by losing 10 pounds, which made the shoes that much more special.
In the store, I told the saleswoman what I was looking for and she measured my feet and had me run on a treadmill barefoot. She recorded my stride to see what part of my foot struck the ground first and to check out my arches. Then she used that information to bring me a few different shoes to try on. I would try on a pair of shoes, walk around in them, run on the treadmill in them and see how they felt. The whole process took about 30 minutes and I left with a great new pair of shoes.
A couple of notes on running shoes: If new shoes aren’t in the budget, you might check out some inserts that you could put in your current shoes to give your feet the support they need. Also, if you do buy running shoes, only wear them when you’re running. If you wear them all the time like when you’re out and about or doing yard work, they will wear out faster.
Take time to stretch
This is something I haven’t done nearly enough of, and really, I’m fortunate it hasn’t come back to bite me. Stretching is important with any exercise, but especially with running. I guess I do ok with stretching before I run (I could do much better, though), but I don’t stretch nearly enough after running.
You can find a million videos on YouTube that show you how to stretch before and after a run, how to foam roll your muscles and you can even find yoga for runners. I think I need to take my own advice and really put some effort into stretching after I run. If you have a favorite stretching/foam rolling/yoga routine that you use, leave it in the comments. I’m definitely open for suggestions!
We always hear about how important proper hydration is, but I can definitely feel the importance when I run. I feel better when I run on days I’ve drank enough water. If I haven’t drank much, I tend to get tired easier and my muscles cramp.
A good rule of thumb is to drink half of your body weight in ounces each day. So if you weigh 200 pounds, you should aim to drink 100 ounces of water per day. Staying hydrated isn’t only important for helping you feel good when you run, it makes you feel better in general. If you haven’t had enough water today, get yourself up and go drink a big glass! You’ll thank me later.
I never realize how much I take breathing for granted until I’m running. Especially in the beginning, I felt more like I was gasping for air than actually breathing. That was probably due to how out of shape I was/still am, but I’m happy to report that it’s gotten better the more I’ve run. Sometimes just focusing on my breath takes my mind off of how tired I am and it gets me through difficult parts of my run.
My advice would be to make sure you’re taking deep breaths and not shallow ones. Shallow breathing leads to side stitches, which make running absolutely miserable. I had about a week of dealing with side stitches until my dear mother pointed out how shallow my breathing was. Once I got the hang of deep breathing while running, it got so much better!
You might not love it (or even like it)
As of today, I still would not say that I love running. There are some days that I don’t even like it. I’ve heard of that magical (and sometimes I think mythical) point that runners get to where they absolutely love it. They live to run and their life feels incomplete without it. I’m pretty sure I could quit running cold turkey today and I would be just fine.
But what I do get out of running is a feeling of accomplishment. There’s nothing quite like hearing that beautiful voice in your headphones telling you that your workout is complete. There aren’t many feelings better than the one you feel when you’ve reached a goal. I feel proud of myself when I’m done, and I would say that’s why I keep running.
So whether you’re just starting out or you’re right in the big middle of running, I hope these ideas help you. If you are a runner (or even a pretend one like me), what other tips do you have? Leave them in the comments! And happy running!