I’ll be the first to admit that I’m NOT a champion runner. I haven’t timed myself lately on the fastest single mile I can run, but I tend to average between 9:15-10:00 on my everyday runs (4-7 miles), and even slower on my long runs (anywhere from 10-20 miles). Both my parents were avid runners at my age- each ran cross country at Radford, and my dad’s continued through the years, so when I finally started up with distance running in college we decided to sign up for the Marine Corps Marathon together. Was I completely intimidated at the thought of running 26.2 miles? Uh, YES. Especially since my running could never be what you called “consistent.” I’d go through exercise spurts where I’d run for a few weeks, get bored, then stop, take a few months break, do it all over again. Lather, rinse, repeat! So because I’m the queen of procrastination and inconsistently in exercise, I thought I’d share a few tips as I gear up for my second Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) in October!
1) Begin with the end in mind. This breaks down into two areas-
- Overall planning: I know myself- I’m not going to exercise unless there’s some sort of goal I’m working toward, whether that’s my favorite bikini for our beach vacation or a long-distance race, hence why I was game to sign up for this year’s MCM again with my dad. Start out easy- consider signing up for a Turkey Trot 5k or something. Just having an end goal in mind will give you the motivation to start.
- Day-by-day planning: If I set out on a week without being clear what sort of mileage I need to run each day, I’m going to slack. It just happens. So at the beginning of every week, I plan out how far I’ll go each day. This helps me look FORWARD to my runs because I know when they’ll start and when they’ll end- it’s not some endless of abyss of exercise.
2) Outfit yourself properly. You need a good pair of running shoes from a RUNNING STORE, a pair that have been specifically fitted to you according to the way your feet strike the ground. A good pair of running shoes is anywhere between $100-$150, and spending money on a pair of shoes that weren’t fitted for your personal needs is just a waste of your deñeros. Do yourself a favor- check out your local running store; my favorite here in northern Virginia is Footsteps of Reston.
3) Hydrate! Hydrating makes a HUGE difference- often times when I’ve had a crappy run and I look back to see what I could have done differently, it breaks down to the fact that I didn’t drink enough water. I push at least a liter of water into my body two hours before my run (but I stop drinking an hour before to avoid those constant bathroom breaks), and I chug a few more glasses throughout the day. Hydrate enough beFORE and you won’t worry about drying out on your shorter runs.
- Just a heads up- if you’re running anything less than a 5k (3.1 miles), it won’t do you any good to take water with you ON your run- your body won’t process it before you’re done with your run. I don’t carry water with me for anything less than 6.
4) Stretch. I failed miserably with this at first, but not stretching really does lead to injury- you’ve just worked your muscles into a frenzy and without taking time to calm them down with some slow, intentional stretches, your muscles will tighten up and you’ll be more prone to pulling something. Some of the most common running injuries (plantar fasciitis and iliotibial band syndrome) can usually be avoided with good post-run stretching. Make sure when you stretch to take at LEAST 30 seconds per pose. Long muscles = strong muscles!
^that’s my Dad and I after the 2010 MCM. Don’t worry, he doesn’t always have a creepy mustache like that. It was some contest he was doing with my brother.
5) Find a pace and stick with it. I used to abhor running because I’d get terrible side stitches and I’d tire out so easily. Then one day my dad took me running with him and we realized why- I was practically sprinting. No wonder I’d tire out! If you start out on a run and are seriously out of breath within the first couple of minutes, SLOOOOW DOWN. It’s better to finish your run at a slower pace than to have to stop early. On my long runs each week, my pace often slows down to around 10:45-11:00 because I KNOW that that if I go too fast, I won’t finish.
6) No T-Rex arms! We’ve all seen those people that run with hands up near their armpits- don’t be one of them. Keeping your arms up that high wastes energy and tires you out more quickly- drop your arms so that your wrists are level with your hip bones. It’s going to feel super awkward at first and you’ll have to be intentional about it until it begins to feel natural, but you’d be surprised at how much better it feels.
7) Lastly, it gets easier! Every time I come back to running after a long hiatus, I hate my life for the first week or two. My body’s getting used to exercise after a prolonged state of inactivity, so it only makes sense that it’s going to resist. It’ll get easier and more comfortable with each and every run, so push through the frustration!
And finally, because every post is better with a photo, here’s an image from Jay & Meagan’s sunrise e-session, hitting the blog TOMORROW! Provided the power doesn’t go out. AGAIN.