Matter

My Top Tips for Beginning Runners

Of course, there is a wealth of information on the internet. And I’m far from the expert on all things running. But today I just touch on some of what I found worked for me as I went from couch to 5k and on to a half marathon in just over 1 year. Hopefully you can take away something to add to your routine if you are interested in becoming a runner. Remember, all it takes is one small step at a time!

Never mess with a woman who runs 13.1 miles fo run

Take Care of your Body and Health

First off, always consult your doctor and any relevant medical professionals before starting this or any other exercise or diet plan. If running will be too stressful on where your body is, choose a lower intensity form of exercise instead.

If you need to address your diet or supplements, get those in order. For me, in addition to my normal supplements I also started taking an Omega 3 supplement which has been shown to help athletes with exercise-induced asthma.

Types of Runs

Did you know that running was more complex than just shoes to pavement? There isn’t just one way to run or one training schedule you have to follow. Compare a few, try them out and then pick what works for you.

There are so many ways to keep it interesting and pushing your body. Depending on the type of run, you can build strength one day and endurance the next. This graphic does a great job highlighting some of your options.

Types of Runs: recovery run, base run, long run, progression run, fartlek, hill repeats, tempo run
Types of Runs – Strava.com

Training Plans

I did a quick search on Pinterest and found lots of recommendations depending on distance goal and how many weeks. I’d say the majority are 10-16 week plans. Since I had a much longer period until my planned race, I went old school made an excel spreadsheet with my exact number of weeks and weekly schedule and posted it on my bathroom mirror so I could easily see if I was on track and add notes of anything important that impacted my plan.

But there are also so many apps available such as Couch to 5k or Couch to 10k or a comprehensive mile tracker like RunKeeper (all free), which I did use to track my total miles ran in the year.

Examples of Half Marathon Training Schedules -Pinterest

How to Set your Goal Times

Pace, or the number of minutes you can run one mile, depends on a number of factors, including your fitness level and genetics. How fast you run is important in distance running because you may need to conserve energy to finish strong.

A noncompetitive, relatively in-shape runner usually completes one mile in about 9 to 10 minutes. If you’re new to running, you might run one mile in closer to 12 to 15 minutes as you build up endurance.

To find your average pace per mile you can easily reference your fitness tracker #ad or you can calculate it yourself by mapping out a one mile flat surface at a track or around your home and timing yourself running one mile. MapMyRun.com or OnTheGoMap.com can help in measuring your route.

Once you know your pace, you can calculate your estimated finish time for a given distance or race. Below is a quick reference chart. Many races ask for your goal finish time when you register. For in-person races, a pacer, or an experienced runner that runs at a set speed, is provided for various paces. You “keep up” with this person and it keeps your mind off worrying about your pace and finish at your desired time. They help you conserve energy, avoid weaving in and out of other runners, keep a steady pace, and can even motivate you and cheer you on.

Get the Right Gear

Runners aren’t exactly known for their beautiful toes. Blisters, calluses, and even lost toenails or worse…but you can get the right gear to help minimize the ugliness. While you can start out in whatever cross trainers you have, if you are going to dedicate some time to running, your shoes can make a huge difference. Choose ones specifically for running. Running stores can help measure your feet and arches and answer all your questions. I love my Brooks Ghost shoes and am almost ready to get new ones since you also should switch out your running shoes every 300 to 500 miles!

I definitely started getting blisters on the tips of my toes the more miles I put in. I quickly upgraded my socks and on the longest runs would prep my toes (and other likely-to-chafe places) with some body glide. #ad

Speaking of chafe, picking proper running attire is super important as well. I personally love to run in shorts and tanks with sports bras and switch to a lightweight moisture-wicking long sleeve top and legging in the colder temps. Checkout my online boutique for a new premium athleisure line, Savvi that has great options for running, yoga, and everyday!

Code Shorts by Savvi
Mesa Shorts by Savvi
Trainer Leggings by Savvi

Stretching

Shifting from contracted or shortened muscles to stretched ones quickly increases the risk of injury. So it’s important to stretch before AND after a run. It can also improve the quality of your workout. Historically, a pre-run warmup included static stretches like touching your toes or arms stretched across the chest but new research suggests dynamic stretching, gentle repetitive motions, is much preferred. It replicates the motions of your workouts and gradually increases motion and circulation and includes stretches like arm swings, lunges, or knee swings.

For me personally, when I don’t stretch enough I get “runner’s knee.” I learned how important pre-and post-run stretches are but not just for the knees. A lot of knee pain can be related to weak hip and glute strength so those areas should be exercised and stretched as well.

Recovery is another important component of your training as well. Foam rolling is a form of self-massage that helps loosen muscle tightness. You use a foam roller to roll out tight muscles. #ad

Hydrate and Fuel

Since I already eat a pretty healthy balanced diet I didn’t focus on a specific meal plan during my training but I highly recommend looking into eliminating things that don’t make you feel light and energetic. So I’m going to focus on the top two things that can help everyone regardless of diet: hydrate and fuel. Bring water with you when you run, or run on a route with water available, so you can stay hydrated as you train. Some local running groups provide water along popular routes in our area. I prefer to use a belt and take my own water. It’s also great for holding my phone, etc. #ad

When you don’t eat before a run and don’t fuel during a run, your body has no carb store to draw from and it burns fat.  So, you need to not only carb-load, but also fuel during your race with a sports drink and a gel or chew. You have to practice this during training runs and figure out what kinds of fuel work for you. There are many different ones out there to choose from, and they vary from texture to taste. My favorite ended up being Honey Stingers chews. #ad

Breathing and Posture

The two biggest learnings I had on my journey were about breathing techniques and posture while you run and what I huge impact they have on your success. There are obviously different methods and recommendations out there. I kept it simple and visual and am sharing below what I used:

Let’s sift through all the little tricks to remember and go straight to the American Lung Association as the experts. Remember to use belly breathing and a 5-step pattern: 3 steps as you inhale and 2 steps as you exhale (i.e. As you step: inhale left, right, left; exhale right, left, right; inhale left, right, left; exhale right, left, right). This 3:2 pattern will give you a lower heart rate and help you get more oxygen. As your pace gets faster, keep this balance but aim to take 2 footsteps for each inhale and 1 for each exhale as shown in the graphic below.

A 3:2 or 2:1 breathing pattern is recommended for running by the American Lung Association – lung.org

Also important to study is your running posture. I love referencing a graphic because it becomes visual for me to replicate with my own body. For me, my natural inclination is head down to “push” ahead, right? (Plus I may be watching for possible snakes if I’m outside!) It’s actually proper to run looking straight ahead and press forward with your pelvis. I also suffer from the “hands too tight” error and have to remind myself to unclench my fists and relax while running. Sometimes I even shake my hands out briefly.

Proper Running Form (Source: http://www.workoutbox.net)

Staying Motivated

Keeping your motivation up is hard if you have a long time to train until your race. Here are a few things that helped me keep going when the going got tough.

  • Just sign up! In-person or virtual, having paid the money and penciled the date on my calendar made it real and made me push myself harder. Some of my favorite race offerings with fun medal to collect:
  • Race for a cause! Join a race that supports a cause you really believe in. It’s also a great way to invite friends to run with you.
  • Join themed races where you are encouraged to wear costumes like these fun tutus and tanks #ad:

  • Earn actual CASH for your efforts with MyAchievement.com – Choose from 20+ popular apps including AppleHealth, FitBit, RunKeeper, and Strava and start earning points for activities such as running, walking, meditating, logging meals, and answering questions about yourself. Earn $10 for every 10,000 points, redeemable via PayPal, direct deposit to your bank account, or by donating your points directly to charity. Rewards are paid within 7 business days.
  • Celebrate yourself! Get a bracelet or shirt as a reminder of all you worked for. And I hang all my medals in a prominent spot in my closet to remind myself of all I’ve accomplished. #ad
  • Join some online accountability/run groups. Facebook likely has some from your local area. Local running stores can also have their own community group.

Running Through My Mind (Pun Intended!)

My mind is all over the place when I’m running. For me, I either need to distract myself (from the thought that I’m ready to quit lol!) or focus in on what I’m trying to accomplish. Here are a few things I’ve found that help. I rotate through them depending on my mood that day and what type of run I’m doing.

  • Repeat a mantra inside your head can keep you focused on those words and not on your fatigue. Also, putting encouraging, motivating words in your head helps you eliminate all negative words. Having a few “running mantras” really helps me push through the miles when I’m feeling like stopping before the distance I’ve set. I just repeat them over and over in my head to the rhythm of my feet on the pavement. Here are some of my favorites:
    • Think strong. Be strong.
    • I own this run. I own this outcome.
    • My legs are stronger than my brain.
    • I don’t stop when I’m tired. I stop when I’m finished.
Think strong. Be strong.
  • Play a mental game with yourself to pass a mark. When you pass that mark, set a new target. This helps keep your mind on the physical target and not on how tired you are. When I feel like I don’t know if I can make it any farther, I pick a landmark (stop sign, bench, etc) and just focus on getting to that point. Other times I start counting to 100…my only goal in that moment is to take 100 steps. It feels manageable and then I just start the next 100 and realize I can go a little farther than I thought I could.
  • If you are running indoors on a treadmill or track (or feel you can safely run outdoors with an earbud in #ad -see below safety tips), I highly recommend listing to music, podcasts, or audiobooks.
    • My favorite find: run to a playlist based on beats per minute or BPM for an subconscious way to keep or increase your pace. As a basic guideline, the tempo range is 120 to 125 BPM for a slow run and 140 to 145 BPM for an all-out effort. If you’re aiming for synchronicity (to keep your running at a consistent pace, or if you’re trying to increase your cadence), then the ideal tempo range is 150 to 180 BPM. Search “running” on Spotify to find a long list of playlists based on BPM or choose another playlist from the running genre.
    • I made great use of my year long Audible Christmas gift subscription. There are free running motivation tracks that will give you a pep talk in your ear specific to your mileage goal or go for a good motivational audiobook from strong women like Mel Robbins, Brene Brown, or Glennon Doyle. #ad
If you have the courage to start, you have the courage to succeed. Mel Robbins Quote


Safety Running Outdoors

I would be remiss to not also note that you should always take precautions and be aware of your surroundings when running outdoors.

  • Run against traffic and follow all road rules including cross walks.
  • Run in well-lit areas and wear reflective gear in the early morning or evening hours.
  • Run with a friend, family member or dog if possible. If not, tell someone where you are going. Carry ID and/or phone with you in case of emergency.
  • It is recommended that you don’t wear headphones when running on roads so you need to be able to hear traffic around you and remain aware of your surroundings. As long as I’m in a safe area or running with a buddy, I like to put just one earbud in so that I get my music/audiobook (see above) and can still hear my surroundings.
  • Wear sunscreen!

Race Day Checklist

Congratulations! You’ve been building up the miles and are ready to conquer! Take the fear out of the unknown and talk to others who’ve raced a similar race before. Here are my final recommendations for a successful race day:

  • Lay out your clothes and accessories the night before.
  • Eat a good breakfast (one that you’ve eaten before practice runs!).
  • Bring throw-away clothes (checkout second hand stores) and peel off layers if you are racing in colder temps.
  • Make a plan with your support crew/spectators at checkpoints and finish line meetup.
  • Go to the bathroom before your race starts.
  • Line up near your estimated finish time pacer.
  • Don’t take any fuel from race stations unless you’ve tried it before. But do take water at every station. Better yet, take your own tried and true fuel and water in a running belt. #ad
  • Plan for post-race recovery. Drink extra water, have a snack, keep walking/stretching for a while afterwards, and don’t plan anything too strenuous for the next few days.
  • Enjoy! Take in the scenery, the spectators, and your fellow runners.
Race Checklist

Happy Running!

If you’ve already run a long distance race, what beginner’s tips did I miss?

Sources:

https://www.healthline.com/health/average-mile-time

https://runninforsweets.com/

https://www.yalemedicine.org/news/how-to-stretch-before-run

Matter

Couch to Half Marathon during a Pandemic

This morning I was reminiscing on why I didn’t run at all for 20 + years… I have exercise induced asthma….. And I’m also now a half marathon runner!

I am training for awesomeness. I mean I am training for a half marathon. Same thing, really. -someecards

I let the excuse that I developed exercise induced asthma in high school hold me back for years. Every time I would try jogging or a fast dance class or even the jump rope, after any sign that I was getting out of breath I gave up and told myself that it wasn’t meant to be.

Until July 2019….I attended a women’s motivational conference where we were asked to set some audacious goals. I had stumbled into running short distances on a treadmill at the gym a few months before when I was late to a Pilates class and didn’t want to head straight home. I surprised myself that I could actually do some interval running (run a little, walk a little) and not get completely out of breath. Still not even slightly interested in running outdoors despite my husband’s prodding to have a partner, I shocked myself when one of my 10 dreams identified at this conference was to run a 5k. The seed was planted.

Want to know how I ended up running a half marathon just over 14 months later? One step at a time.

I signed up for a Halloween themed 5k fun run with my husband (who is a regular runner) for mid-October. Nothing like a deadline and a financial commitment to seal the deal! Then I started running on a treadmill 2-3 times a week largely because I needed their childcare and lets face it, Texas summers are HOOOOTTT.  I also feel like turning on my favorite Netflix binge on the treadmill’s personal TV helps pass the time quickly so I’m not dwelling on how much farther I have to run.  I slowly added miles to my routine until I had hit the 3.1 mile mark (5k).

Treadmill vs. Outdoor Running

As the race approached, I decided I should try my feet outdoors in preparation for the race. My husband pushed our toddler in a jogging stroller and I trailed behind them. What a disappointment….it was so much harder and I didn’t even make it close to 3 miles.  Those in the know will of course recommend you try using a 0.5% or 1% incline to better mimic the conditions of outdoor running but I hadn’t incorporated this at the time.

Luckily I didn’t quit that day. I just added some outdoor runs to my schedule, even if it meant pushing my little one in the jogging stroller (which is tough pushing that added weight!). I celebrated every accomplishment and shared it on social media for the extra encouragement from my friends and family. 

“Farthest I’ve ever run outside! Ever! Getting closer! #48daystil5k (2.42miles, 11.31 pace)”

The morning of the 5k I was nervous. The temperatures were in the 50s…not great for my exercise-induced asthma. I took my inhaler 30 minutes before the race began and tried to pump myself up by taking in all the energy from the other runners and their costumes.  (By the way, I pieced together our Mario & Luigi costumes myself but I loved browsing sites for other running costumes like goneforarun.com.

Monster Dash 5k was a success! Thank you everyone for your encouragement as I checked this off my goals list! My wish today was to run the whole thing and beat my best time of 33 minutes. I came in at 30:50.6!

While it may not seem a big deal to some, it was an achievement for me. I’ve never considered myself a runner. Fast forward 3 months from setting a goal and I crossed this one off and moved onto the next goal! At 36, I started claiming the label “I am a runner” and encouraging others that you are never too old to start something new. We can all be dream catchers!

Dressed as mario and luigi for the Monster Dash 5k
My first 5K: Monster Dash 5k 10/26/19

What’s Next?

I took a little break over the winter holidays and didn’t get much running in. In February, at Happy Hour my friend, Corrie, threw out the idea of running a half marathon together in December.  I actually laughed out loud at the idea. Even though I left it open, I had no intention of actually doing it when I left that evening. But after thinking on it for a week or so, decided that maybe with 40-plus weeks to train I could do it. I set a weekly training plan starting March 1st with a goal of finishing the 13.1 miles in 2 hours and 20 minutes. Yep, talk about audacious! But once you get that high from achieving  a dream you didn’t think was possible, the sky is the limit, so capitalize on it.

Shortly after, the Covid pandemic struck and we came back from a Spring Break camping trip to lockdown. The gym closed. Races were cancelled. My running journey could have stopped there.  But with all the media talk about underlying health conditions having such a huge impact on Covid outcomes, it sparked something strong in me – I was going to be as healthy as I could be if my family was exposed to this virus, especially my lungs. I started running outdoors regularly. It became my me-time (after being stuck in my home with my now-remote husband and my virtually-schooling kiddos), my stress relief, something I could actually control, and my exercise routine.

I started educating myself on how to push myself farther: allergy pills in Spring (lol!), path choice, breathing patterns, stretches, posture, audiobooks, music –and I share some of my top tips my blog post “My Top Tips for Beginning Runners.”

I started signing up for virtual races…

I celebrated every new personal best…

New personal record by over a mile! 5.5! Whoo hoo! #10kbound #virtualrace

March 28, 2020

Completed my 10k virtual race in exactly my goal time 1:05!! And 3 weeks earlier than I was originally planning on doing a live race. This goal has kept me motivated to keep running and strength training during all the current life changes going on and has been great therapy! I’ve logged 56.5 miles in the last 6 weeks! #virtualrace #10krun #goalgetter #strongerthanyouthink

April 10, 2020
Completed my 10k Bunny Hop virtual race

My 5 mile run today put me over another milestone…101.7 miles since March 1st when I made my training plan for a half marathon. I’ve pushed myself farther and faster than I ever thought was possible! Just because you’re a certain age or stage or have 0 experience doesn’t mean you can’t set audacious goals! #iamarunner #100mileclub #mondaymotivation #monslay

May 11, 2020

Well my virtual race medal is running late but I still knocked out my 15k today! #feelingstrong #rainydayrun #gotwet #9point3miles

May 16, 2020
showing off my muscles, dripping with rain after completing a 15k
Feeling strong after finishing my 15k Hot Chocolate Run

By early Fall, I felt pumped. I moved my Fitbit cardio fitness score based on VO2max in the “very good” range and lowered my resting heart rate to 59bpm from the mid-60s.

I added extra runs in just for fun like a virtual 5k supporting literacy for Dyslexia Awareness Month.

Success!

Then on October 3rd, 2020 just over 14 months from my initial 5k dream, at 37, I completed a half-marathon. Yes, my feet ran all 13.1 miles. Alone. No mass of runners to feed off their energy. No side-line cheerleaders. No big finish line balloons and party. Me, myself, and I completed my virtual race (confirmed by my fitness tracker – so no cheating!) I beat my goal and finished in 1 hour and 55 minutes….8 weeks early from the original 40 week plan.

I’m continuing running, but at a slower pace, and have already completed an in-person 5k in 2021 and about to run in a quarter marathon. I’m enjoying running alongside friends at in-person races again and feeling the energy of a crowd. Do I have plans to go for a full marathon? No, not for now. For now, I’m enjoying the confidence, strength and energy I gained from it all.

So I hope that my running journey inspires you to try something bold, something that makes you laugh out loud today, and helps motivate you to push yourself far beyond anything you thought you could do. Just because we may be getting older or in a certain life stage, doesn’t mean we can’t still be learning, growing, and pushing our physical limits!

Here is how I display my medals. #ad
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