Monday, December 31, 2012
You? RUN? You bet. I started my program in 2011 at about 215 lbs. or so. I've read Sparker blogs by people who started out weighing more than that. It is not as mystical or magical or miserable as you might expect. Yes, you can do it.
Here's where I am now, after my sloth of the past 4 months. I'm about to head downstairs for my run. I'm going to pick up my 5K running app in week 5, which has a 5 min. run/2 min. walk/7 min. run/2 min. walk/5 min. run. I'll probably do a light jog for another 10-15 minutes after that. Gotta work back into it.
This summer I was up to 8-12 miles once per week for a long run. I did a faster shorter run on Mondays, intervals (fast/slow) on Wednesdays, and the long run on Fridays. Can't jump back in at that level, but I will get there. I have been running at least once every one to two weeks, so I'm not totally out of shape, but I need to give my joints and tendons and ligaments time to adjust.
Hey, you overachievers (you know who you are). A lot of people start a running program and find out that the first few weeks aren't hard for them (they were for ME, but some are fitter than I was when I started). They skip a few weeks, thinking they need more challenge. If you are ever tempted to do that, DON'T. Even if you can breathe fairly easily and you are not too sore afterward, go through the program as it's set up. What you don't always sense is that your skeletal system also needs time to get used to the new demands on your body. Joints, tendons, ligaments have to get used to new stresses, and that takes time. You'll be more injury free if you start slow and work up.
Also, stretch AFTER you run, not before. To warm up, walk for 5 minutes at a mediumly brisk pace. Walk for 5 minutes afterward, too, to cool your muscles, then stretch. You can find runners stretches here on Spark.
The thing is, you don't want injury. You want to be able to run for as long as you can. I'm 50. I am committed to running 3 days a week and NO MORE. This is because 1.) I don't want to injure myself from overtraining; 2.) it's enough to keep me on a weight loss downward trend; 3.) later when maintaining, I can keep running and still eat more than 1500 calories a day.
I want this to go on as long as possible. If I injure myself, then it messes up everything. SO many people get to the 5K, then they get all into it and decide to run 10K. I did move to a 10K distance, mostly because my goal was to run for an hour, and that's about how far I can get in an hour. But then they want to move to a half marathon (13.1 K). Then nothing will do but to run a marathon.
Look, it takes at least a year of running before your body is ready for that, from everything I've read. And even then, the miles you have to pile on to get ready for the long races in the weeks prior is really hard on your body. Now, some people are just born for this stuff, and so of course some should go for it. But think about your goals. For me, my goals are to run for a long time for fitness and weight management. I don't want to win races. Oh, I don't mind running in some for fun, and plan to, but not to the point that it undermines my goals. So think about your goals.
Oh, but you aren't even close to worrying about that? Well, no problem. Just get started. This is what I did (don't consider what I did advice, of course -- see your doctor first and maybe a trainer or at least read up).
First, I started walking. Once a person can walk 45-60 minutes a day (yes, walking every day is okay), then it's time to think about running.
I used a Couch to 5 K app. I also like Run5K. My favorite apps are from lolo by Jeff Galloway. He has good encouragement as you go. I'd recommend those first. He has one for 5K, 10K, 13.1, and 26.2.
It took me about 14 weeks to do the 10-week program. Which is FINE! If I had a day that was really hard for me, I repeated it. Sometimes I repeated a week. there is no one keeping score. You just go as you can.
I thought I was going to die for the entire program. I wondered if I was EVER going to be able to run without feeling like my chest was going to explode. The hardest was getting up to 3 minutes in a row. But over time, I did it. It didn't kill me. I got stronger. I remember the first time I ran 10 minutes in a row. Wow! And then that dreaded day when I did 20 minutes without stopping. I dreaded that one for weeks, as I looked ahead at each week's schedule. What a fabulous feeling THAT was!! I still thought my chest might explode, but I also finally felt like a runner.
Usually, these sessions take about half an hour. I would then walk at a fast pace for another half an hour. You don't have to do that. I just wanted to get 60 minutes in. It was good, though, because after I finished the 5K app, I was ready to start the 10K. I began that one about 1/3 into it. In another 10 weeks, I was running the whole hour.
A note about pace -- I am slow. I am a sloth of runners. I still have a goal of a 10-min. mile pace. I got pretty close this summer and I CAN run one mile in 10 minutes, but I want that to be my pace. Actually, I'd really like to get it to 9 minutes (8 is a fuzzy dream). When your goal is fitness, then it doesn't MATTER how fast you are. I figure that over time I'll get there naturally. No injury-inducing pushing.
And don't let anybody tell you you are not a runner if you are not fast. Screw that. I get sick of that little battle of the runner blogs.
It took about 3-4 months of running before I noticed one day that I was breathing fairly easily while running. I was elated! Yes, I had made it. I could run and enjoy it. And so I still really enjoy it.
That was the surprising thing. I love being a runner. Here are some perks you need to know.
Running burns more calories than nearly anything else. All you need are a good pair of shoes and a road/treadmill. I can burn up to 1100 calories or more on a long run. Even the shorter runs will burn off 500 (according to my Exerspy). It's an economical way to burn a lot in the least amount of time.
Running shapes your body. You get runner legs. They are lean. Yes, YOUR legs. My calves are really tightly toned, even now. My thighs became so much thinner. Your a$$ will shrink. Your belly will shrink. You get narrower, tighter, leaner all over. Even your shoulders will look leaner!
My favorite blog from Katie (Runs for Cookies), has a photo comparison that I like to remember. She has two photos of her at 152 pounds. In one she's wearing size 12 jeans and in one she's wearing size 6 (I think. Could be 4). Why the difference? Because one was when she was gaining weight and in the other, she had been running. Running seriously changes your body! Btw, Katie was 253 when she started running. She's maintained her 125-pound weight loss for 2 years now. If you want inspiration, read that little lady's blog.
You will be so proud of yourself. It's amazing to me still when I say, "I'm a runner." Sometimes it comes up in conversation. "How did you lose your weight?" I say, "Diet and exercise. I'm a runner. No real magic."
But it is magic, in a way. I'm a runner. You can be a runner, too.
And though I know this is getting way too long, I wanted to add that yes, I do cross train. I do spin classes at the gym on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I bought a road bike last fall and intend to do a lot of biking on it this summer. We also just got kayaks and we intend to do that once a week at least, just to do something different and work on upper body. I also love to hike when I can. I strength train 2-3 times a week. But I worked UP to all that. Don't think you have to do it all at once. Cross training can be walking, elliptical, bike/spin, zumba/dance, kickboxing, or any cardio thing where you are using different muscles. Pick something you love to do. Then just do it!
Edit: I added the following as a comment, but it's going to get shoved to the bottom, I just realized. So I thought I'd go ahead and put it up here in the blog, even at the risk of making it even more ridiculously long. :D
Two notes: I want to emphasize the need for good shoes. The ideal thing is to go someplace like Runners World and get their advice for what kind of shoes you need, based on your foot and running form. You may not be ready to shell out $70 for custom insoles, but do seriously consider spending more than $75 for a GOOD pair of shoes. Maybe that could be your reward. That is, start with a good pair of less expensive ones, but then move up. You don't want to be running long term in cheap shoes. It'll cost you a lot more in injuries, or you may just quit in frustration, thinking it hurts too much, when really it was all about the shoes. Indy car racers don't drive a Kia, you know?
Speaking of pain, yes, expect some. But it should be the kind that goes away, and do rest when you need it. For me, I know my body well enough now to distinguish between normal aches and pains and more serious kinds. Pay attention to your body and learn what you can run through and what you should take a break for.
Second, there are several groups on Spark for beginning runners. Check them out and join one. You get a lot of good encouragement, and it's fun to post your weekly accomplishments. And you learn a lot.