Thursday, October 9, 2008

TT- Running Tips for Beginners

I was so excited by the response from my running post last week, and all of the emails I received asking questions, that I decided I had a bit more to say on the subject. Things that I found to be helpful to me that would maybe help you out on your attempt to love running. And please, if you have any more questions feel free to leave it in the comments or send me an email.

1- Shoes- Having shoes that fit well and give you proper support is very important. I know there are stores that actually help fit you into the right shoe for running, but being the cheapskate that I am I usually just go to Kohl's when they have huge sales. I got my last pair of Nike's on sale for $40 down from $70. Very exciting. Adidas and Asics also have some great running shoes. If you feel you need outside help from a salesperson that is probably the best way to ensure a proper fit, but I just try on the shoes (both of them) and see how they feel. I walk around the store for a while and make sure my arch (I have a very big arch) is supported, that they are snug but not too snug, and that nothing is rubbing on my toes, ankles or heels. I can always tell when it is time to buy a knew pair of running shoes because my shins and ankles get sore after every run.

2- Clothes- It takes a while to find clothes that you are comfortable running in. When I first started running I went out and bought these running shorts that were made out of a windbreaker type material. I was so excited to try them out and when I did I hated them. As I ran my thighs rubbed together (there! you caught me! my thighs touch. dammit) and the material gathered and inched upward leaving an upside down V at the hem of my shorts in between my legs. I felt like an idiot AND the material chaffed my legs. I kept pulling at them the whole run and it was so distracting. After that I switched to spandex (I know, I know) and there was no slippage. I wore an extra long tee shirt to cover my K-Lo caboose and have been happier ever since. Each person is different and you have to find the clothes that make you comfortable. Even your socks can make a difference as I've found thinner socks work much better than thicker socks for me.

3- Sports Bras- Speaking of clothing, let's talk about sports bras. I've been asked by quite a few people what is recommended for big breasted women who want to try running. Not like I'd know personally (double dammit). I definitely do not have to worry about that. But a few of my friends are very well endowed and when they run they wear two or three sports bras at a time and found it works great. I actually wore two sports bras when I ran while I was still breastfeeding and it truly did help. If that doesn't work, um, try duct tape?

4- Water & Food- Drinking enough water is crucial. If I don't drink enough water I get really itchy legs and sometimes even migraines. On a day you know you will be running try drinking water regularly throughout the day. When you get closer to the run slow down on the water. Every time I try to make up a water deficit right before I run I get a major gut ache.
It is very important to eat well when you are running. Some people want to cut out carbs while they are running but I always find I don't have any energy if I don't have some carbs before a run. Go for the healthy carbs. Whole wheat toast with peanut butter is a good one but the best food for running is a banana. It is said that a banana can sustain you through a one hour workout or run. Try not to eat too close to the time you are going to run. I eat an hour or two before I run.

5- Posture- Try not to lean your upper body over your knees as you run. You want to keep a fairly straight posture. Running up a steep hill is the only time I allow myself to lean a bit. Too much leaning forward not only indicates that you are super tired, but it can give you a backache too. If your nose could cross a finish line before the rest of your body it means you either have a huge nose, like me, or you are leaning way too far forward. Think straight.
Also, when you plant your foot on the ground you want to set it down heel to toe. Heel toe, heel toe. Your foot should not make slapping or stomping noises when you run. It should be fairly quiet. Placing your foot heel to toe puts the least amount of strain on your knees and joints.

6- Clock Watching- We've all heard about the watched pot. And it is true. When I am on the treadmill I always cover up the faceplate with a towel so I am not constantly watching the clock. I learned pretty quickly that watching the clock makes the run feel like forever. Ten seconds feels like a minute. The same is true when I run outside. I wear a watch to time myself but I don't look at it until I get to my mile markers. If I am on the treadmill I have the TV on to pass the time. If I am outside I look at the houses, the cars, the lake, the trees, and the people to distract myself. Much better than watching the clock.

7- Weather- I love running outside. The time seems to pass so much more quickly when I'm outside then when I'm on the treadmill. I used to feel the opposite because when you run outside you are contending with the weather. And here in Wisconsin we get all kinds. Hot, humid, cold, rainy, snow, sun, windy. You name it. Running outside always added another level of difficulty for me but once I really gave it a good try it really was much more enjoyable for me. The one thing that I can't live without when I am running outside is a baseball hat. It not only keeps my hair out of my face and off my neck but it shields my eyes from the sun and rain and soaks up the sweat that otherwise runs into my eyes. I can never keep my sunglasses on when I run and tire of pushing them up my nose every 5 seconds so the baseball hat is a lifesaver.

8- Warm up & Cool downs - Many of you have asked me if I have warm up exercises that I do before I run. I really don't. I was taught to warm up into the run. Meaning, you start out jogging slowly and then work up to a decent paced run. Jogging is a sort of warm up in itself so I have never really stretched much before a run. It may not be what a trainer would recommend, but it works for me.
I have found that the cool down is an absolute must for me. Never finish a run and plop yourself down in the grass to catch your breath. Todd warned me of this many times and told me of the importance of a 5 minute cool down but I didn't listen. I would run for 30-40 minutes and then just walk in the house and sit down. Every time I did that the same night I would feel like I was getting the flu. My muscles ached and I was chilled to the bone. Todd kept telling me that my muscles didn't have a good cool down and that is why I felt so crappy. Finally I decided to listen and after every run I would walk for 5 minutes. I've never had that same cold achy feeling after a run again. I HIGHLY recommend walking at a decent pace for at least 4-5 minutes after each run.

9- Traffic- When you are running outside you have to be very aware of the cars on the road. Some drivers seem to be completely oblivious of runners. You need to watch out for them because they may not be watching out for you. And just because a car has it's turning signal on doesn't mean they will turn. I have almost been hit crossing the street a number of times. If you must run in the road run on the side of the oncoming traffic. That way you will see the cars that are closest to you much sooner than if they were coming from behind you.

10- Dogs- I love dogs. But when I'm running, not so much. It seems that when dogs see someone running their natural instinct is to chase. Even the friendly dogs. But it is a distraction whether the dog is friendly or not. I have been nipped at by three or four small dogs (they seem to be the sassiest) and have learned to cross the street (even though one dog followed me across the street) every time I see a dog to hopefully avoid any kind of interaction. It usually works.

-Quick story. Todd was running down the street (he always runs in the road) one morning when out of the corner of his eye he saw a pit bull come tearing out of a yard and begin chasing him down the middle of the road. Without thinking Todd turned around and began running top speed at the pit bull, growling and barking. Luckily, Todd was scarier than the pit bull and the dog skidded backwards and took off down the road in the opposite direction. I think if it would have been me I would have peed my pants and probably been a goner. A teenager and her mom were coming out of the church across the street and saw the whole thing. The teenager said to Todd, "That was the coolest thing I've ever seen!"

11- Pain- If you are going to be a runner you need to learn to think past the pain. There will be pain. There will be cramps, gut aches, feelings of heaviness, shoulder tightness, and all kinds of pain. Running is a sport of mental toughness. It is all about pushing yourself. I didn't become a runner until I learned that. Instead I would always give up and start walking the minute I felt pain. If I got a gut ache I would stop running and walk. Once I learned to push myself I found out that the gut ache goes away if you run just a few more minutes. If you get a gut ache after 4 minutes of running and always stop running to walk you will ALWAYS get a gut ache 4 minutes into the run because your body has never been pushed further. Try running through the gut ache and next time you may not get it at the 4 minute mark. Maybe you'll get it at 10 minutes. Or maybe not at all. Push, push, push yourself. That is also why it is important to start slowly. You can't go from not running at all to expecting yourself to run 3 miles. That is not only unrealistic, it is dangerous. If you work up to it slowly your body will be able to adjust better and have less recoup time. Be smart about the pain. You know the difference between pushing yourself through manageable pain and pushing yourself through pain that could cause damage (a pulled muscle or something).

12- Music- I honestly can not run as well without music. Listening to music gets me pumped up and gives me so much more energy when I am struggling through the last mile of a run. I have an iPod shuffle that clips on to my waistband and the earplugs actually stay in really well while I run. I am so grateful for that iPod. It is my running lifesaver.
I am very choosy about the music I listen to when I'm running. Nothing slow or relaxing. I listen to fast-paced music that makes me feel excited, angry, or scared. I know that sounds funny but I run really well when I am ticked off or freaked out. I also listen to music that maybe I normally wouldn't listen too. For instance, Beautiful People by Marilyn Manson. That song scares the crap out of me and it makes me run super fast just to get the song over with. It makes me feel like I'm being chased. Or Still of the Night by Whitesnake (although I do actually like Whitesnake). The drum beats and his voice just sound angry to me. It pumps me up. Then there are the songs that I love listening to no matter where I am. Even if I hear them in the car they get me excited and make me feel like running. Stronger by Kayne West, Smooth Criminal by Alien Ant Farm, Intergalactic by Beastie Boys, Loose Control by Missy Elliot, The Way I Are by Timbaland, Survivor by Destiny's Child, Let's Go Crazy by Prince, are all on my iPod in the first 40 minutes. Anything with a good fast drum beat or a quick rhythms really help me run. The only thing I have to worry about is keeping myself from dancing while I'm running. I've been known to throw a few head nods here and there and swing my arms around to a good song. I probably look pretty crazy sometimes. It reminds me of how Phoebe ran through Central Park in that one Friends episode.

13- Inspiration- There will always be times when you don't feel like running. Whether it is while your are running or when you are trying to get up the gumption to get out and go for your run that day. It can be tough to keep going sometimes. You need inspiration. It can be anything that makes you feel strong enough to get up and go instead of taking a nap on the couch. I have many different things I think about to motivate me. Yesterday during my run on the treadmill I was just so bored and so not into it but I thought about my dad. I thought about what a great runner he was and how much he loved sports and being active. He would give anything to be able to run again. It was enough to push me through the rest of the run and I went much farther than I thought could.
Todd remembers being inspired during a marathon when around mile 18 he looked over to the side of the street where people were standing cheering the runners on. He saw a little boy with severe disabilities sitting in a wheelchair smiling and clapping for the runners. He was so choked up but it gave him the extra boost to finish the marathon with gusto.
Or how about this story? This is so amazing and inspiring it takes my breath away. It makes me think that if someone can do something like that then I certainly can finish up a measly little 4 mile run.
But I'll admit sometimes my thoughts are much shallower than that. Sometimes picturing me looking good (or even acceptable) in a swimsuit for an upcoming vacation is enough to make me continue on during a painful run. Shallow? Yes. But, hey, sometimes it works.
Whatever your inspiration you need to use it to help you push through those difficult times. The times when you just want to skip running for the day. Use that inspiration to push yourself to the next level.

(So there you have it. Again, these are all very basic things that have helped me. I am by no means a professional runner, or a nutritionist, or a trainer. I am just a regular person who used to hate running and who now loves it and uses it for stress relief, exercise, and my overall health. This may not work for everyone, but it has helped me. Of course you should always check with your doctor before you begin a new workout routine.)


Elaine A. said...

Thanks again for this! I need to get myself some better shoes but I am on week two of my program that I have started and I hope I can stick with it! : )

Let me ask, have you ever been in a runnig club or have you always just ran on your own?

Jaysi said...

I have been trying the running thing and I am doing pretty well. I do so much better on the treadmill than outside though. Not sure why, but for now I am going to go with it.

Thanks for all the tips! I am determined to be a runner!

Anonymous said...


THAT Friends clip is hilarious. "LIke...ya know....when you're running away from Satan..." LOL. I can't wait to run through Central Park!!

I just wanted to comment about the Traffic and Pain topics:-)

I've nearly been sideswiped by cars TWICE THIS WEEK, and one of the times I had my stroller with me. You're right, most people don't pay attention. I tell me husband that is getting hit by a car is the death of me- that he needs to sue for manslaughter because I WAS paying attention and followin the rules!


I'm a lazy runner. I go slow...long distances. I don't like to sprint, and I don't like the extra strength conditioning that I'm "supposed" to do for this marathon. But IT'S pain- No Gain.

Stephanie said...

The pain is what has gotten to me each time. But I will work through it this time. I am determined. I've been walking up to it. I'm about ready I think!

Dawn said...

There was so much that I loved about this post...the story about Todd and the Pit Bull, the Friends clip and your great advise.

Robyn said...

Sooo you're saying I need to mentally toughen up huh? No, seriously that is my biggest problem, I cannot push through very far and the I walk and feel like a sissy and run a little bit more and walk get my drift. Thanks for some more excellent tips.

Kimmy said...

I have a friend who qualified for the Olympic Marathon Trials for the past Olympics. She and her husband are both amazing runners!

Thanks for all the tips!


MamaGeek @ Works For Us said...

These were great Kat. I totally agree with a good playlist, that makes all the difference to me!

CC said...

I remember that episode! :)

Well, I was inspired last week. But not so much this week... but I did go on a nice long walk after work with the kids... :)

Haley-O said...

GREAT tips! I'll have to apply all these to my walking. I have a really hard time running. I think it's from all my years as a dancer -- my body's saying NO to hard core exercise...! Good for YOU, though!!!

Kristen said...

Another great list!

I talked to my hubby about this whole running business, and I have decided to start next week on Monday. I have been single parenting for 8 1/2 days now, and so when my reinforcements show up, I am starting off.

Can't wait, and yes, this shallow mama would also like to look good in a swimsuit. But, hey, I really don't think it is shallow! :)

CC said...

ps: I'm tagging you

CissaLynn said...

Girl, you are SOOOOOOOO funny in your story-telling!!!! I love it!!!! :) The "Friends" clip was hilarious, as well. Phoebe has a point, tho, b/c running WAS fun when I was a kid. What happens to us? Grown-ups are BOOOORING!!!!! :))

Looking forward to your "top picks" on Saturday!! :) The lady who told the "car story and the thumbs up" was awesome!!! It was a great blog to read!

Fire Hunt said...

I would like to run I just need more time in my day to do it.

Molly's Mom said...

I had a couple "runs" in this week (more like walking interspersed with bits of running) and it felt great!
And for the *ahem* larger endowed women (I am one myself), Moving Comfort makes good sports bras. I have the Maia and it's comfortable. I think Champion is making one similar to the Maia as well.
Thanks for another inspirational post! :)

Karen Deborah said...

Great info, covered a lot of it! You could probably elaborate on the MENTAL BATTLE aspects, all the ways we avoid the pain. I apprciated every word sitting here on my butt. I'm cuddling the kitty.very important work you know.

Momisodes said...

Wow! That story about the pit bull...I would have peed my pants :/

Thank you so much for posting this. I am certainly one of those who just stop and start walking once I get the belly ache. I will certainly take these words with me next time I go for a run :)

Kathryn said...

Elaine- Nope. I've never been in a running club. It sounds like a pretty good idea, but I just never know when I'll be able to sneak a run in, so that makes it tough for me. Sometimes I run if hubby comes home for lunch that day. Sometimes I run (on the treadmill)when the boys are napping. And sometimes I run at night when the boys are asleep. It all depends. Trying to coordinate with a group would be too difficult for me right now.
I have run with people in 10Ks but I think next time I'll do it alone. I don't like feeling like I might be holding someone back from running faster and I don't want to feel guilty for wanting to run faster if I can too.
But running with someone else can definitely make it a lot more fun and can motivate you on days when you just don't feel like running.

Nissa said...

When I saw that you were going to write about "running" I was compelled to stick my fingers in my ears and shout "lalalalalala".

Then I realized that doesn't keep me from reading with my eyes! lol

I don't understand the appeal of running, myself, but I think it's awesome to have friends that really enjoy it! Rock on!

Karen @Snakes-Snails-Puppydogtails said...

I ran in high school and developed "runners knees" - I didn't have the right shoes or technique - but that is the past. NOW it's REALLY messed up my knees. I do well for a while then my knees act up REALLY bad and I quit. They also act up when I sit for a long time - like on road trips. Any suggestions for how to deal with it and get back into the running? I miss the benefits that I got from running that I don't get from just walking!

Cassie said...

Thanks for the tips. I had to go buy new shoes...mine were so old they had NO support. And music REALLY helps keep me motivated...especially the last few minutes!

Words To Live By

Be grateful for each new day.
A new day that you have never lived before.
Twenty-four new, fresh, unexplored hours to use usefully and profitably.
We can squander, neglect, or use them.
Life will be richer or poorer by the way we use today.
Finish every day and be done with it.
You have done what you could;
some blunders and absurdities crept in;
forget them as soon as you can.
Tomorrow is a new day.
You shall begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be
encumbered with your old nonsense.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson