Wednesday, June 8, 2011

What I've Learned From a Year of Running

 So while I was out running today I started thinking about how I want to do a trail run, but I've been too scared of the unknown to venture out onto a trail. This got me to remember that over a year ago I couldn't even run one minute without giving up, but I set a goal to run at least a 5K. I managed to train not only my body but my mind for that 5K! I started to believe in myself and know that I could accomplish that.

That first year of running I did not just one, but three 5Ks, a 10K and my first HALF Marathon. I have now set a new goal for this year, running my first FULL Marathon. I thought if I could get over the fears that I had with running a year ago, I could certainly get over my fear of doing a trail run. Heck, I don't even know what I'm exactly afraid of.

 This line of thought then had me thinking about all I learned in my first year of running and was able to complete a Half Marathon and improve on my speed as well. This is the main reason why I love running, it gives you time to really think. I like to call it moving meditation!

So here is some of what I learned in my first year of running, and hopefully it will help some other runners that are just starting out!

1. STRETCHING - Stretch BEFORE and AFTER your runs. This will loosen up muscles, etc before your runs so you can run better, faster, and longer. Stretching after runs will help to soothe muscles and prevent cramping. I believe that stretching helps to reduce the risk of injury, inflammation and maintain flexibility. I have found that Yoga and some of the asanas really help muscles that are used during running that we forget to stretch, particularly the IT Band (Pigeon is amazing for this area!!)

2. FUEL - When I first started running I bought into the myth that "running on empty" burned more calories because your body would use fat to fuel itself for your runs. Not true!! Generally, if you are running for 30 minutes or less you just need to bring some water to stay hydrated and maybe something quick to eat before you head out. If you are going to be out for an hour or more, you need to fuel. The best fuel for your body is a simple carb that will digest quickly to supply the body with the fuel/energy it needs. This is wear the gels, GUs and more come in. I have started testing out my Quick Energy Bites and find them a WAY better and healthier option than the commercial gel fuels! Don't forget to eat something when you get back from your runs, I like to have a protein smoothie with lot's of fresh fruit and Vega Whole Food Optimizer!

3. HYDRATION - I get VERY thirsty and dry when I run, so I always carry water with me. I just take sips when I feel I need it, but you can actually become dehydrated before you feel thirsty, so take a sip every minute or so. If you are running with music, take a sip of water at the end of every song. If you prefer you could use Energy Drinks like Gatorade that will hydrate and also replenish electrolytes.

4. SET GOALS - I know this one sounds weird, but I set goals for myself as I run. Especially, if I'm just not feeling the run. If my mind or body wants to stop then I'll set a distance goal like "I'll stop in another quarter of a mile" or "I'll stop for a walk break when I reach that purple mailbox" etc, etc. Then the best way to keep going is to reach that goal, and set another! "Yay, I've reached the purple mailbox, now I'll keep going until I reach that black car parked on the side of the road". Just keep setting and achieving small goals to push yourself.

5. WALK BREAKS - some people say that if you have to stop and take walk breaks while out on a run, or during a race that you are NOT a runner, and you can't say "I ran a Half Marathon" because you took walk breaks. I say to them "Screw you buddy!" I think it's one thing to mentally push yourself but it's another thing to push your body beyond it's limits. Listen to your body and take walks breaks when you need to. The goal is to gradually decrease the time spent walking and increase the time spent running! You can do it! Besides, Ive seen people who take walks breaks beat the jerks who insult them while they ran the whole time. Just do what's best for you and your body! YOU ARE A RUNNER!!!

6. LOOK THE PART - basically what ever it takes to get you out the door and hitting the road is a good thing! If it's that cute running skirt, or the cool run watch that gives you all sorts of data that you don't even know what to do with...USE IT! I use so many things when I run (iPod, hats, running shorts, Nike Sportwatch, really, really, really good running shoes, etc) but it helps me to get out there and do my best! I am definitely NOT a minimalist runner, but I'm still a runner (even with all my gadgets)!!

7. REGISTER FOR A RACE - even if it's a 5K, register for a local race. Having a race on the calendar that you paid for will get you out on a run, to train, and give you something to look forward to. Besides, the excitement and energy at the start line of ANY race increases endorphins which makes the body and mind feel good. I'm always nervous right before a race, but nothing compares to that moment you cross the finish line!!!


  1. I love your blog, Chris!!
    Favorite part - Screw you, buddy! So true!

  2. Great post - and isn't it amazing what you can learn about yourself out there running. That's one of my favorite parts.

    Some thoughts for you.

    1. Stretching
    Be careful with stretching bfore running...You can actually cause injury stretching cold muscles. Warm up for a few minutes first and then stretch and continue. Totally agree about stretching after though and Yoga poses are great for runners.
    2. Fuel
    I use Hammer products...They use all natural ingredients...I love that you make your own though - that's awesome. Remember to when you race to use the fuel you used during training to avoid tummy troubles.
    5. Walk Breaks
    I am now a Galloway run/walk/run runner. I love it. I finish stronger, feel better and am actually getting faster. And you're right - if someone doesn't like it - too bad for them!
    6. Look the Part
    Love the gadgets comment as I never run without my Garmin...Remember to look good in "functional gear" - wicking material is a blessing!
    7. Register for a Race
    Indeed, but by careful it can be addicting...Ask me I know :)!