Friday, June 13, 2014

My Running Journey Part 1

I decided to blog about my running journey because maybe it'll encourage you if you are trying to get into running. Maybe what's working for me will work for you.

I ran a little starting in college and through graduate school, but 3 miles at a time was quite the accomplishment for me. After I had L Child (my 2nd child) in December, I decided I wanted to run a half marathon. I had ran two 5K races and was really slow. It was during my training that I discovered I loved running. Once I got past three miles of running, I was warmed up and my legs felt better. Every once in awhile I would get that elusive Runner's High you hear about. Running and nursing a baby helped me to slim back down to almost my-pre-first-baby weight. I ran the half marathon again the following spring. I was still really slow; 11-minute miles were my average and the further I went, the slower I got.

I ran a 10K in a summer night race and hated it. It was so hot, and I'm pretty tired at night to do a run. Plus, the course was a 5K loop that you do twice. Boring.

Here's what's working for me now:

#1 Set a start date that works for your schedule.
I ran off and on short distances until I got pregnant with Button. She didn't nurse that long so I had more trouble getting the weight off this time. In addition, having three kids and working full-time was eating up my time. I was attempting to do Insanity and run during the spring semester, but I just couldn't do it consistently. Someone was always sick it seemed (big brothers bringing home germs from school got Button sick A LOT!). Finally, I confided in my runner friend and she told me the best thing: "Start training at the end of the semester, but for now, just run when you can." That advice freed me and got me excited about training in May.

#2 Have an experienced runner mentor.
I panicked slightly when she texted me the week of my finals to remind me that I had a weekly mileage goal. I panicked again a few weeks later when she told me that it was time to start the speed training. Every time though I was able to reach the goal. It is key to have a runner friend that can give you a plan and reminders to do it.

#3 Run a short race early in your training.
I ran a 5K about four weeks after I began my training. It reminded me of how much fun a race can be and gave me a baseline time (32 minutes).

#4 Set and complete weekly mileage goals.
Weekly mileage goals that increase over time have helped a lot. My first week was "9 easy miles" as my runner buddy described to me. I'm on my seventh week now with almost 18 miles done this week. You can reach your weekly mileage goals however you want. If you want to do small 2-3 mile runs, you can. If you want a big run or two thrown in there, you can. You run when you can. You get your miles in no matter what. I've taken off 4 days in a row which means I'll probably have to wake up at 4:30 AM sometime later in the week to get a big run in, but if I need the rest or am busy, that early wake-up is worth it.

#5 Set and complete weekly speed work.
As I've mentioned, I'm not fast. I want to be speedy. Or at least a little speedy. When my runner friend told me about the speed work she was doing last year, I wanted to try it. I didn't know how to get fast on my own. Simply trying to run faster during my runs wasn't working for me. I met my runner friend for my first speed work a few weeks after I started running regularly. She warned, "This is going to be awful. You'll feel pretty horrible afterwards but I promise: it'll make a difference." I'm glad she prepared me because it was pretty awful. I had never pushed myself so hard. We did a couple miles to warm up and then ran around a track. My speed goal currently is 10-minute miles so I tried to do a lap (quarter mile) in 2.5 minutes. My slow body didn't like it, but it could do it. At least part of the time. After running a lap and a half at my goal pace, then I got to walk (or jog if you can!) a lap. Repeat five times or so. Then we had to run a mile or two to cool down. I would have never done a warm-up or cool-down run a year ago. I have found that they are key in my speed work. It takes my legs at least 2 miles to warm up and after pushing so hard, my legs need to stretch out on a cool down. Once a week I do some sort of speed work. My runner friend sends me the work-out if we can't meet. I keep track of my fast times during speed work so I can see the progress. I struggled with speed work last week; I just couldn't do it so I'm attempting it again this week. I'm hopeful I'll be able to complete it. I have to sprint 3 minutes, walk/jog 3 minutes, sprint 2 minutes, walk/jog 2 minutes, sprint 1 minute, walk/jog 1 minute, and repeat. Whew! That makes me tired just typing it.

#6 Variety is the spice of running life.
I have found that I am enjoying my running a lot this time because it's always different. I run at different times (summer breaks are such a blessing!). I have several venues to run including my back-up gym treadmill. It's nice to have the option of a gym with a staffed children's playroom when it's raining or dark or I need childcare. I run with different people sometimes. I run with music (I love Spotify) or my Zombie app. Sometimes I run without listening to anything and enjoy the quiet thinking and praying. I like the Nike+ app that tracks your miles, routes, and how you felt during the run. It also has some elite runners give you congratulations at the end of your run. All in all, variety helps me not get bored.

#7 Celebrate 
I'm that annoying person that shares her weekly mileage or latest time. I try to keep it at a minimum on Facebook and with friends and family. This is why having a runner friend is helpful. It's completely acceptable to brag-text your runner friend your latest time. They understand and will share their latest accomplishment. Sharing victories is helpful in sticking with it.

These seven things are making the difference in my running training this time. I've lost weight and gotten stronger. I was able to complete two 6-mile runs this week at a good speed. I can't wait to see how I do in my next 5K.

Keep running!

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