Sunday, December 30, 2012

10 Secrets Seasoned Runners Don't Tell You - Usually!

I used to be an avid runner. I loved it. When I was in top shape, I had endless energy, lung capacity and stamina. I was in such good condition that my resting heart  rate was 42 bpm, which is typical of marathon runners.

I loved running, weightlifting, calisthenics, and yoga so much that I over trained and blew out my knee. I didn't need surgery, but it took months to heal and by the time I felt up to running again, I had lost the level of fitness I had gained and felt so disappointed with myself that I just stopped.

I continued eating healthy, even though I had given up (most) exercise but lately my food habits have become very poor. Not only have I gained 25lbs. in the past year, my body feels tired, weak and sick. Yesterday my body decided to hand me a warning in the form of a mild gallbladder attack. I don't ever want to know what a major attack feels like. I had been wanting to start running again, since reading Hobo Mama's post about her 5k, I made a goal to start running again after the holiday fuss died down. My first time out this morning reminded me about the pitfalls and lessons I learned when I was just starting out (the first time.)

Here you have it, 10 running secrets that most runners don't tell you:

1. They Felt Stupid at First, Too.
One of the hardest things for beginning runners to do is put on tight clothing and go jogging in front of people they don't know. Those people stare. It's true! But they're not laughing at you (usually) and most people respect what you're doing for your body. Some are even envious because they want to want to do what you're doing. Many will even offer you an encouraging nod.
As you get into your groove and find your zone, you will learn to tune other people out - so you'll miss the smiles or even waves of support. When you go running, you want to get lost in the rhythm of your body, your breath, the solid pounding of your feet and ignore everything else.
Just a tip though - keep your forearms parallel with your body and avoid twisting your torso when you run - you may feel odd and robotic to do so, but believe me, you'll look ridiculous if you don't. Besides, you waste a lot of energy running like that.

2. Clip Your Toenails Down to Stubs.
I didn't do this when I first started, even though I could feel the nails digging into the sides of my toes, because I had such cute toenails! Stupid, really. Nothing puts a damper on your run quite like the searing stabbing pain of your pinky nail digging into your little toe. It's like this: you can be a runner, or you can look good in sandals. You may find other vanities that take a back seat to your health, such as the need for more frequent bathing/hair washing reeking havoc on your skin and hair - just for an example.

3. Swallow, Don't Spit.
When you run, your mouth gets spitty. The rapid air flow through your mouth and nasal area (especially in the colder months) dries your spit and makes it well, phlemy. I know it's hard to imagine swallowing a gelatinous mouthful of booery saliva, but spitting not only wastes precious hydration - it can lead to some very embarrassing mishaps when your loogie doesn't part ways with your mouth in a nice tidy break.

4. Support All of Your Bits.
If you're a dude, wear supportive underwear. Your stuff is going to get really sore if you're out there swinging loose with your testicles smacking the underside of your butt cheeks. If you're a lady, wear a sports bra. Your boobs will thank you.
Also, be aware of nipple chaffing, regardless of your gender. Keep your hair pulled back and dress appropriately - less is usually more. I prefer running in the winter (between 30 and 40 degrees F), and keep my attire down to a pair of full length spandex, a long sleeved t-shirt, a headband pulled down over my ears and a pair of gloves. Make sure you wear the right shoes, too and that they support your feet snuggly.

5. Ain't No Shame in Shuffling!
Many runners do tell you this one. Walk when you need to, run when you can. There is a very popular program out there called Couch to 5k, that uses a system of alternating running and walking and is quite effective.
Shuffling is really slow running - slower than jogging walking, even. But it's still pulling both feet up off of the ground and therefore burns more calories than walking does. The point is, don't worry about how fast your going. When you become a more experienced runner, you can think about picking up the pace. In the beginning, just do what you can and don't fret about it being enough.

6. Everyone Has Bad Runs.
You can rock your run one day and fall short the next. Sometimes your body just isn't feeling it. I know seasoned marathon runners who have bad runs. Maybe you're wore out from a bad week, may be you're fighting off a cold. Perhaps you didn't get adequate fuel the day before. May be it's windy, or you pull a muscle, or you just flat out suck, once in a while. It happens to the best of them.
When you're starting out, you'll likely have more bad runs than good. But every day you run is a day you did something good for yourself.

7. You Don't Need Expensive Gear.
Shhh. Don't tell Nike I told you that! They want you to believe you need special clothing that wicks away moisture and 100$ shoes to keep from jacking up your feet. You want something that allows you to move without binding or constricting. Something that won't flap around in the wind you'll be making. You want a good, supportive pair of running shoes. Stay away from dyed socks and know that natural fibers such as cotton are good for breathability.
Look. Sporting companies make a killing off of people this time a year, by convincing them to drop hundreds and thousands of dollars on stuff they don't need because they think it will make them skinny. Getting into shape doesn't need to cost you anything. Keep it simple.

8. Poop Before You Run.
I'm not joking about this one. When I started out running, I would go in the early noon-time, just before my lunch. Never had any problems. But when my kids started back to school and I needed to get up at 5am to go running, I found myself with a serious issue that nearly kept me from running at all.
You see, it's an odd thing that happens to your body when your heart beats faster - everything speeds up inside your body. Metabolism, blood flow, and even your digestion. Therefore two miles into my run would have me in total misery, longingly eyeing every large bush I passed and sometimes having to head home early. I researched and found that this is not an uncommon problem. The lesson is, know your body and work with it. And also, you may want to plan your route so that there are some gas stations along the way, if you're going to be out a while.

9. High Aerobic Exercise Cleans Your Lungs.
This is a wonderful, fantastic thing. But be aware of it. You see, even if you're not a smoker, you have likely a bunch of crap and sitting inside of your lungs. Dust particles, mainly, and smog if you live in a city. If you live with a smoker, you likely have second hand tar and other nasty things.
Don't be alarmed for the first week or two, when you find yourself hacking and coughing up stuff. It's normal and very healthy.

10. You lose your gains quickly when you stop.
And it's ok. I actually did have a running friend warn me of this, so I was expecting it. It was still disappointing when I did try to start back up, to see how easily my progress was lost. It's also discouraging to think that I had to maintain that level of activity all of the time.
The fact is, what is quickly lost is also quickly regained. If you need to take a break, don't fret. You will lose ground but your body will spring back so much more quickly than it did the first time you started, so take heart. Once you begin for that very first time, you'll probably never have as hard a time with it again.

Whether you find these tips amusing or beneficial, here are some other links to websites that can help you get started as a beginning runner:

Running Mom
Runners Resource
Runners World - Beginners Only
Running Planet - 8 Week Program
Couch to 5K Running and Jogging

Get up. Go. Run!

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