A friend of mine who is plowing her way through her own weight-loss journey approached me about running the other day. She’s trying to get into it and had some general questions for me. We’re both similar in the fact that we were never runners before and just started doing it. I’ve been running for about a year and I’m more than willing to give her any advice she asks for. She knows I’m no professional runner, but a friend who has already gone through something she’s trying. So just to state for anyone else out there who might read this post, I am no expert on running–I’m just sharing my own experience and thoughts. So here is what she asked me, which in short is how I became a runner.
How did you start running?
I started running with a friend and her family. I am pretty sure that had I tried it alone, the results wouldn’t have been the same. I’m not sure I even would have tried it if I hadn’t been invited to go with them. I could barely run half a mile at the beginning–the uncomfortable breathing was what really got me and kept me at a short distance. When I was finally able to push through it, adding the distance came pretty easy. I went running probably every other day–I still don’t run every day, it tires my legs out. (Plus, I like to mix strength and cardio.)
Did you run for a mile straight, then walk, for a few days and increase your miles each week?
I have never really mixed running and walking. In the early days, if I stopped running to walk and then tried to run again, my hamstrings hurt. Now that my legs are used to it and stronger, I could run and walk, do some interval training, but I usually don’t. I sometimes walk a little extra to cool down after my run, but once I walk, I don’t run again. (But that’s me–my running friend likes intervals, so as long as you’re body is good with it, it’s okay. Mine just wasn’t and now I don’t feel like doing it haha)
Not sure where I read it, but I read somewhere that it’s not recommended you add more than a mile a week to your distance. So that’s what I did, but it took months to do that. After about 2 months of running, I was just able to run my first 5K. I’d say, for me, it was probably 5-6 months in before I was able to easily add a mile a week. However, 8 miles was when winter hit and I promptly went to the gym for spinning and step classes 🙂
What tips do you have for what to do pre-run, during the run, and post-run?
Pre-Run: Stretch. I especially stretch my hamstrings because I have not done it before and it doesn’t feel pretty. Also do your quads. A good quad will help you from hurting your knees. I also like to make sure I’ve eaten something recently. A protein bar, cup of yogurt, or banana are what I like. I give it, as a small snack, about 30 minutes before I run. If I’ve had a full meal, I usually give myself at least 45 minutes, depending on the sort of meal. But I don’t like going on an empty stomach.
While Running: I think the only tip I have for during a run is to look ahead. I run on a trail that is pretty damn straight, so I usually pick something–a bench, a bush, a shadow–that’s about 100-200 feet ahead and stare at it until I get there, then pick another thing. Out of habit, I look down occasionally to make sure that I don’t step on a twig or a snake (yeah, that freaked me out the one time I came across one). This helps my posture while I’m running. I would suggest an arm-band for your smartphone/iPod so you don’t have to hold it the whole time. I love MapMyRun’s app while I’m out. I personally don’t like listening to music while I’m running, but that’s because earbuds make my ears feel like they’re full of pressure. And, because of marching band, I tend to start to run in time to the songs, which can slow me down–and I don’t feel like making sure every song has a certain number of beats per minute. Oh, and if you feel that stitch in your side, you’re taking in too much oxygen–step up your pace or start breathing slower. Another reason I like to have silence is so I can pay attention to my breathing and steps–especially if my feet start to drag, I can hear it better than feel it sometimes.
Post-Run: Stretch again. I usually don’t do it, and I know it’s bad, but I can usually feel it if my legs will be sore from the run, so I will stretch when that happens. I don’t really do that much after my runs except drive back home and take a shower. I drink a lot of water, probably 16 oz easy, when I’m done with good run. You could have a protein shake of some sort, maybe some chocolate milk 🙂 About an hour after a good workout is when it’s best to intake something to help your muscles repair.
I hope this answers her questions. It was definitely fun to examine my running experience a little more than I normally do. Running isn’t for everyone. I think I like it because it’s solitary–I do it alone and it lets me escape. It doesn’t exactly clear my mind because I often find myself thinking about a ton of random stuff, but I like that. And it’s an easy activity to set goals with–you can try to run farther and faster every single time and see some results. I tend on the distance end–I’m not great at making myself run faster 🙂 But I hope that my friend can get through the tough stuff at the beginning while her body adjusts to the new activity and find she loves it as I do. Good luck!!!