Running now, more than ever
It's been a hot minute since I updated my blog. Life got REALLY busy. And then, a couple months ago, we as a collective human race, slowed down. During this time, I was asked to write up some info for a group of colleagues about running. Like most people, I've seen an increase in the number of people outside exercising during the COVID-19 pandemic. I quickly agreed to write up some thoughts and tips for my colleagues that may be thinking now is a great time to take up running, and thought I'd post them here, as well. As I mentioned to my co-workers, I'm not a running coach or a PT, but just a person that runs a lot and picked up some (ok maybe more than some) helpful info over the years.
I've written 3 installments so far and will share one a week. I hope it's helpful and let's keep logging those miles as we work to get life back to "normal".
I hope this finds you all doing AWESOME, despite the situation we find ourselves in! I know we have a lot going on, but we also have much to be grateful for!
I’ll cut right to the chase, as I’ve been asked to provide some input for the wellness committee about one of my favorite topics: RUNNING!!!
I’ve been a long-distance runner for the past 8 years. While I am not a running coach or trainer, I know a lot about the subject and am LOVING that so many people are taking up the sport as a way to help their mental and physical well-being during this pandemic. I truly hope it’s a habit that sticks, as I know I am a better person for having running in my life. I started running (again) in early 2012 after I finished my doctorate degree and was soooooo tired of sitting in a chair staring at a computer (much like our current situation). It was right around the time of the Disney Princess Half Marathon, and being an Orlando resident, it seemed like literally everyone on my social media feeds ran that race. Who in the world runs 13.1 miles voluntarily?!?!?! Well, I was inspired by those people and set out to run the same race in 2013. So, I started running, and the rest is history! I’ve now run countless half marathons, 15 marathons, and managed to get fast enough to qualify for the Boston marathon (which I am heartbroken isn’t happening in a week, but I’ll be ready in September, no matter what Florida summer training tries to throw at me). All that to say, I’ve picked up quite a bit of knowledge on my running journey, and I’m happy to share some of it with you all in case you find yourself wanting to get into running as well.
I’ve opted to chunk the info into some themes, as a way to help the info be organized, but also hopefully easily digested and referenced in the future. This first post will be the “getting started” info. Subsequent posts will focus on gear, nutrition, warm-ups/cool downs, repair/recovery, and types of runs (that’s right, did you know there are different types of running?!). If at any time you have questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out, as I literally could talk running any day, any time, for as long as you want.
Getting Started with Running…
Ok, the first thing to cover is that running isn’t a ‘natural’ thing for a lot of people. That’s right! Despite what a lot of magazines or articles will tell you, running is a natural movement that we all can do – but it’s not necessarily ‘natural’ or ‘easy’ for most of us. In fact, for most people, if we aren’t careful and we just head out the door, we can quickly find ourselves laid up on the couch with an injury. So today we will cover the top items to get started running – both safely and smartly!
· If possible, get fitted with running shoes. That’s right, the sneakers in your garage that you’ve had for the last 3 years aren’t the best choice to run in. This is one of the most common ways new runners get injured very quickly – they run in sneakers they already have, which are not actually suited for running. Running sneakers are also very different – just like our feet – and you need to have a professional assist you finding the right one(s). That can be challenging during a stay-at-home quarantine time, but check your local running shops (not your big box stores) as a lot of them are offering virtual shoe fitting and shipping. They will send you a few shoes to try at home, you try them out, and send back the ones that don’t work for you. Not all stores are doing this, but a lot of the established running specialty shops are. If you don’t have a shop that’s close to you and doing this and your only option is to order online, here are some things to consider:
o It’s usually necessary to order 1 – 1.5 sizes larger than you wear in traditional shoes. If you order running shoes in the same size as your normal shoes, prepare to lose some toenails. Yuck.
o Do you have flat feet? Do you pronate? Do you need extra arch support? Usually we know these kinds of things about our feet, so look for shoes that mention these types of specifications.
o If you don’t like tight shoes, look for shoes that have a larger “toe box” (Altra is a brand that is very well known for this).
o “Cushion” isn’t always better. Some brands will advertise a feeling of running on clouds or the like – and that’s another way that some runners can fall to injuries. We actually need to feel the road, so read reviews and be careful of marketing tactics.
o Check out running sites like runningwarehouse.com or roadrunnersports.com that offer a great return policy, even after wearing the shoes outside.
· What about shoe inserts? That is a personal choice, and honestly, if you’re just getting into running, not likely necessary. If you’re not new to running but are taking this time to increase mileage, then you may want to consider them. I use them, but I didn’t when I first started. If you feel the need to check some out, Superfeet and Enertor Global are two great options to start with.
· Don’t run in your old gym clothes. Cotton is NOT your friend! If you have sports clothes with moisture-wicking material, that is what you want. Cotton will not only become very heavy with sweat, it can cause horrible chafing which is the worst.
· Speaking of chafing…one of the most important items to use when you are running is Body Glide. Get some on Amazon, and if you find you are enjoying running, get the 2-pack.
· Now, before you head out, have a plan! That’s right! When starting running, just heading out the door with your new shoes and awesome neon running clothes is just half the battle! It is crucial to have a plan to follow. We usually feel really great the first quarter mile…and then we wonder how the heck we will make it back to our house after we’ve gone another quarter mile. Having a plan will not only help you with building mileage in a safe, smart way, but will allow you to keep your pacing in a healthy range. Some great beginning resources are the Couch to 5k program or info from Jeff Galloway. You can use their apps on your phone, and they will virtually coach you through your run. Both of these incorporate walking and running times or distances, which are perfect for most runners. I ran my first marathon using the Galloway method, and I can’t recommend it enough!
· Speaking of apps, if you like being social and having the INCREDIBLE running community support and cheer you on, check out some social media apps like Strava and Instagram. Strava is social media for all exercise and fitness areas, and there is a massive online running community on Instagram. You will find you can learn a lot by watching what other runners are doing – success leaves clues! Even less social apps like Nike+ or Garmin can allow you to connect with others and encourage each other. When I started running, I used Nike+ and would start my run on the app every time. This allowed anyone I was connected to on Nike+ to see that I started a run and they could send a “cheer” which played on my phone and was just the encouragement I needed to keep going.
· Last, but definitely not least, make sure you are eating and drinking enough and at smart times. You’ll learn your body, but it’s usually not recommended to have a big lunch and then go out for an afternoon run to break up the day. Drinking enough water (usually at least half your body weight in ounces of water) is super important to avoid becoming dehydrated. Keep water outside and you can loop by your house and take water breaks. Make sure you drink water when you’re finished to rehydrate. We will get into both of these topics in more detail during the nutrition post, but I wanted to make mention here, as a lot of us live in parts of the country that are already pretty warm. Don’t mess around with dehydration, friends!
Ok, those are my top tips for getting started with running! It’s not an exhaustive list, and as I mentioned we will dive a bit deeper into some of these areas in future posts, but I hope this info helps to get you out the door for a run if you’ve been thinking about it. If you do go out for a run and think it’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done, you’re not alone! There are still many days that I feel that way – even after thousands and thousands of miles run! As the 2018 Boston marathon women’s champion, Des Linden, is famous for saying, “keep showing up”. Every day, get outside, and whether you go for 1 mile or 10, show up for yourself and do your best – whatever that best looks like on that day.