Monday, January 30, 2012


For today's post, how about a list? Things that inspire me to tie on the running shoes:

  • New running clothes.
  • Passing runners on my drive home from work.
  • DailyMile weekly running reports.
  • Perfect running weather.
  • Sitting all day. (This doesn't happen often, but on those rare teaching days that involve sitting, my legs are screaming for a run.)
  • My favorite jeans fitting just perfectly.
  • Looking at my running pictures.
  • Reading other running blogs or magazines. (Someday I'll hopefully remember to post some links here!)
  • Seeing other friends' running updates on twitter/facebook.
  • Music. (I always start a run on the same song, so it's become a trigger for me!)
  • Having a running dream.
  • Sore legs.
  • A bad day.
  • Adding songs to my running playlist.
  • Comments on my running updates on FB.
  • Looking at my 2009 running log on Nike+.
These are just a few...there's sure to be more that come to mind on my run tonight. What are your motivations, fellow runners?


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Dealing With Injuries

I'll be the first to admit that I don't have what it takes to be a runner. I look for almost any excuse to wimp out. Case in point? Just the other day I told K, "If you're somehow too pregnant to run our Half in March, I'm sure as heck not getting up at 4am to do it alone."

To which K responded, "Please. I'd get up at 4am, drive you to the race, and meet you at certain spots to cheer you on."

You see, K has it in her to take a little punishment. I, on the other hand, do not. I've had to learn how to work through that, of course, but a headache, a broken pinky toe...heck, even a hang nail is a reason for me to take a day off running.

When I ran the Half last January, I hurt my knee in the first three miles. Taking months off of training and running at a race-pace will do that. I also suffered some weird issue with the top of my foot. (My laces were tied too tightly and after 13.1 miles, that pressure actually caused some kind of mild injury.) I legitimately tried to run a mile the day after my half, and legitimately needed to rest my knee. I ended up resting it for three months.

Was that really necessary?

Now, I've learned my lesson. I've stocked up on ice packs. I wear a knee brace (this one) when I run. I changed from my Nike shoes to the Sauconys that were specially fitted for my feet. I make sure to actually stretch after a run. I build up my mileage slowly. (No more 0-13's for me.)

Still, there's this whiny child in me - the same child that walked the mile in PE and complained of fatigue - that works tirelessly to drag my motivation down the drain. And we all know the only truly permitted excuse for time off from exercise is injury.

(I do need to stop and wonder at myself here, because if my pregnant, achy, exhausted, mommy-of-a-toddler partner can run through it, what's my excuse?!)

So how to deal with these injuries? I've decided to do something pretty dumb. Anything that's not painful (as in, I can walk on it without limping) can be treated with advil, a slower pace, and a shorter distance. The big thing here is staying in the habit of getting exercise so that, while nursing the injury, I don't lose the motivation to go out and run. Many times, for me, running through mild pain helps the pain alleviate faster.

This probably isn't the case for everyone, and most experienced runners might have better techniques, but I've found that modifying my run (instead of putting it on hold) and being diligent about my stretching allows me to overcome injuries faster, and seems to prevent injuries in the future. My muscles stay limber, ready, and raring to go!

Still, it's important to note here that my knees still constantly give me trouble in the beginning of any run, and I need a second brace for my left knee now. (My original injuries were both to my left leg, but after they healed up my right knee became the weak one, so that's where I wear my brace.) I haven't yet gotten it, but I sure look forward to being that awkward looking girl wearing two braces as I run.

Hey, maybe it will make me look dedicated, hardcore, and like I actually know what I'm doing!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Importance of a Running Buddy

Like I mentioned in my introduction post, I'm not a natural runner by any means. When I first began running, a friend of mine from my grad school cohort agreed to try it with me. But, seeing as neither of us had any running experience, she bowed out after a couple runs. I soon learned that if I were to find a running buddy, it had to be someone with more experience, drive, and determination than I had.

When I first began running and M set me up with my iPod and shoes, he ran with me a few times, but there was some difficulty there. For one thing, his legs are at least six inches longer than mine, and our strides don't match up. For another, he was living in a different state.

So in 2009, when I met K, I was relieved to find that not only did she like to run, but she had experience! K had been a cross country runner in high school. She knew all kinds of jargon, like fartlek and intervals. And because we worked together, we could easily go on our runs right at the end of the day. Perfect.

Although K had her first baby that year, which interrupted our running a bit, it also served as a motivator for her the next summer when she wanted to lose her post-pregnancy weight. Her motivation fed into mine, and we decided (crazily) to train for a half.

But that's a story for another day. The point of this post is the power of a running buddy. K holds me accountable without really having to do much. A simple text ("want to run tonight?") is enough to get my off the couch.

The importance of having a running buddy goes beyond that, though. Let's be honest here. Running is work. Some days, it's the last thing you want to do. You've been at work all day. In my case, that means 8 hours of standing, talking, answering repetitive questions, sometimes shouting, sometimes pulling teeth to get work out of these kids. At the end of the day, wine and TV is like...a dream come true. So why run? Why create another obligation to fulfill?

Well, for one thing, the girl time! The thing I miss most from college is sitting in the sorority house talking about completely inappropriate things, or political things, or literature-related things. During a run, our conversation provides a distraction. After the run, while we stretch, it provides a solid time to catch up and be adults. Honestly, that in itself is priceless. More than anything else - the motivation, the knowledge and advice - the time to just talk and feel like a real person with thoughts, opinions, and feelings is the best part of having a running buddy.

There is something about bonding over achieving a goal that deepens a friendship, and maybe that's what finding a partner to run with is really all about. One thing I know for sure - running would be a lot less enjoyable if I had no choice but to do it by myself.


Saturday, January 14, 2012

My Stats and Patterns

Runners (and most athletes, I think) become a little obsessive over their stats. How can I beat my best? How can I stay on track to meet my next goal? Luckily, there are tons of ways through the internet to do this.

I keep track of my mileage on Nike+ and on DailyMile, but I've been using Nike+ longer. Obviously, because of that, it has my total mileage while DailyMile only has my most recent runs (within the last year or so). I use the DailyMile widget on my sidebar, but only because Nike+ doesn't have a widget compatible with blogger.

I like both these sites for keeping track of my running, but I like Nike+ a little more. The reason behind this is that you can input your info into DailyMile, and you can cheat it a little bit. I like that Nike+ takes the info directly from the chip, and therefore can't be faked.

I also like the levels it uses to show you your progress. Everyone starts at yellow (0-30mi) and then moves through orange (31-154mi), green (155-620mi), blue, purple, and then black. Nike+ allows you to set up challenges, goals, and a training schedule; because it connects through your iPod, the trainer can actually talk to you during your run.

DailyMile is a nice, easy way to keep my facebook, twitter, and other runners who use the website updated on my progress, but Nike+ is a better tool for my own personal use.

My Stats

Total mileage according to Nike+: 237.46
Total mileage according to DailyMile: 192.18

Fastest mile: 8:20
Fastest 5k: 28:09
Farthest run: 13.1 miles

I run the most often in the summer. My biggest problem month seems to be October. Obviously, the plan is to change that this year!


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Past, Present, Future

This introductory post is going to be a long one. Let's begin at the beginning, shall we?

Running History

In 2008, I was a student in grad school earning my masters in English education. Bogged down in studies, I was fighting with a crazily fluctuating weight and stress-induced lethargy. I was also newly engaged. With 2009 looming, I decided to focus my resolution on exercise.

I have never been a severely overweight person, but I was that kid in gym class who ran the mile in 20 minutes and then complained of being tired. I've had asthma since birth (this is not an exaggeration) and constantly used this as an excuse. I couldn't run a full lap around a track. Period. I had to walk about halfway in.

In high school and college I began to go to the gym, but it was always inconsistent. And, like many (dare I say "most"?) women, I battled disordered eating habits and an obsession with weight. It wasn't until grad school that I had a kind of epiphany. I didn't want to look at exercise as a competition; I didn't want to go to a gym and stare at a TV while I obsessed over calories on the elliptical. So, I made a resolution. I would learn to run outside.

"Like a real person," I said.

My fiance, M, was happy to help. I had an iPod and running shoes and was able to do my first couple runs without having to spend any money on "supplies". The first time I successfully ran a mile without stopping, I felt this sense of total elation and freedom. I, who could never even complete a lap around a track, could run a mile without pausing to walk!

My birthday falls right after Valentine's Day, and M and his mom worked together to buy me an iPod nano specifically for running, a Nike+, armband, and new Nike shoes. I was set! Having all the extra accoutrements really did motivate me to keep running.

I haven't looked back since. After getting married and moving for my job, I found a running buddy.

Running Pattern

I wouldn't say I stopped running after I began teaching, but teaching is not a job you leave at work when you go home. Coming home nightly to grade papers, tweak lesson plans, and work on furthering my own education completely destroyed my urge to run.

I teach English in a middle school; one of the other young teachers and I began to talk, and I realized that she, too, was a runner. We began to run together after school. This is definitely the best thing that has ever happened to my running. In grad school, my "running buddy" ran with me twice and then gave up. But K was different. She had run in high school and was avid. To this day, K is my running buddy; on days I don't want to run, knowing I'll let her down is the best way to get my feet into my sneakers.

In 2011, we ran a half marathon together. K had had a baby in May and we had been running all summer to train for the half, but when school started again our running fell by the wayside. We ran the half that January after months of not running at all. Talk about pain! Actually, I did injure myself. I did a mile run a day after the half and my knee hurt so badly I had to walk most of it. This is an injury I still need to baby today.

Can you tell I've never had formal running training?

So after the half, I took three months off from running. This brings me to my latest pattern. I don't run frequently enough. And this, of course, brings us to my future goal and this year's resolution!

Future Goal

My resolution, as I phrased it, was "run more consistently...don't have anymore blank months on DailyMile or Nike+." Well, okay. So how do I make sure I stay motivated?

For one thing, K also set a goal for a certain amount of miles this year, so we've got each other. I figured a blog that forced me to be held accountable for any excuses I make would also be a good thing.

I love running. It's a great way to clear my head. After eight hours of talking/lecturing or having people talk at me, it's a great time for reflection and silence. Sometimes I like to run alone to get a chance to just...mentally disappear for awhile. I mostly prefer running with K for the motivation, distraction, and camaraderie. Nothing solidifies a friendship more than the things you talk about after a good run.

So that's it. In 2009 I tied on my first pair of running shoes and haven't looked back. This year, I look forward to success in my fitness like I've never seen before! I encourage you to come along for the journey.