I should start out by saying that I'm no running aficionado by any stretch. But what I'm about to share is what worked for me when I decided to take up running.
I remember watching people run on the treadmills when I worked in the gym thinking, how on earth are they going that fast for that long? Or seeing the super fit people running along the beach anytime we'd vacation thinking, why can I not do that? Or better yet, seeing the seventy-three year old man complete a 5K I was working and thinking, okay really? If he can run three miles, what is wrong with me? For as long as I've been into fitness, starting around age 14, I had not been able to consecutively run a mile, let alone a 5K. I just couldn't figure it out. Clearly, I was doing it wrong. Admittedly, my main focus in the gym tended to be the weight room. Weight training has always been my favorite. I get quicker results and love the look of strong, sleek muscles. But can I tell you, that even when I was doing figure competitions, the fittest I've ever been at around 11% body fat, I still couldn't run. I blamed it on fast vs slow twitch muscle fibers, but the real problem was my approach.
I loved sprints as a part of my training regimen, but not a fan of the distance running. I would plan on running a mile, hop on the treadmill, crank it to 5-6 mph and be gasping about three minutes in. My problem was that I was trying to do too much too soon.
Fast forward some six years and one baby later and I found my self thinking, okay, if my body can create and sustain a human, it can run a mile. I started slow and my "plan" was a little something like this.
Week one and two: Run at a pace of about 4.3 mph (basically, I could have been walking fast I was running so slow), and run for .5-.75 miles. I had a loop downtown where my parents live that I would run. It was completely flat as long as I stayed on the same street. I marked off the distance in my car to find a turnaround point and used that to start with.
Week Three: I maintained the same slow and steady pace, but upped the distance to a full mile and I could actually do it when I took it slow!
Week Four: I ran a 5K. This wasn't really planned. A friend of mine sort of talked me into it. I committed to running it with a friend of hers from work who was a newbie runner, too and I went in with the goal of not stopping until I was at least halfway through the course, so a mile and a half. When we hit that point, it wasn't marked and we didn't know we had gone that far, so we just kept talking and chugging along. Before we knew it, we could see the finish line and I couldn't believe that less than a month into running, I had completed a 5K. Now my time was just over 37 minutes, so I went slower than a turtle in molasses, but I had done it and I felt so accomplished for it!
Following: After running that first 5K, I picked a date for the second one a week later and kept the same pace, but added just a little bit more distance. One more block to be exact. I stayed at that distance for quite a few more weeks and then started trying to improve my pace bit by bit. The weather was cooling off big time at this point and let me say, winter running outdoors is for the birds. It kind of sucks, but I kept going, usually a mile and a quarter, four days a week.
Since this summer started, I have upped my daily runs to about two miles six days a week and do weight training four days a week as well. On days I don't run, I try to do a four mile bike loop through town. There are some days that you just feel it and think you could easily keep running another few miles and there are other days that it's all I can do to get out my regular course. That's just part of it, but I think it's important to run on the days I don't feel like it, too. Works on that mental toughness :) I've also started incorporating hills into running and that's a whole new ballgame, let me tell you what. But I was told by a friend that working on hills can really improve not only your overall conditioning, but also your overall time.
That first 5K was a year ago this September. After running that first 5K, I completed four more over the next two months and it was sort of becoming an addiction. I started out really not enjoying it at all, but I found that the more I did it, the more I craved it. Don't get me wrong, I still prefer the weights to the runs, but it's a big accomplishment for me to be able to do it.
Here are a few things that help me when I set out to run:
1. Having my watch. I like knowing my pace, how far I've gone and calories burned.
2. Having a running buddy. My sister and I run together most nights and I find that the runs I take when I go on my own seem so. much. longer. Having someone to chat with makes it go by quicker and you don't really pay attention to what you're doing.
3. Have some fast-paced music. If I have to run alone, I like to have some upbeat music to keep me going. It's another one of those mind tricks that takes your focus off of the task at hand and allows you to just zone out. This may not be for everyone. I'm no serious runner, just enjoy doing it for fun at this point.
4. Have a goal to work towards. When I first started, I know I wanted to run a local 5K in the fall, so that gave me something to keep my eyes on so to speak. I knew that I had to put the time in before that run so that I would be able to complete it that day.
5. Set new goals. My initial goal was just to complete a 5K. I didn't care about time or placements, I just wanted to prove to myself that I could do it after thinking that I couldn't for so long. Well, after I knew that I could do it, my goal became to run one in under thirty five minutes. I accomplished that when Juston and I ran The Color Run together in Lexington in the early spring. My new goal is to get my mile time to 10:30. I'm a slow runner and I'm okay with that. It gives me something to keep working towards. I'm also contemplating a 10K this fall, but I don't know if I'd have enough time to train for it beforehand.
I guess the over-arching advice here is that step number one is just to start. If you have to run a minute and walk two, start there and do it slowly. Don't sprint. Learn from my mistakes. The best advice I got about running was from my husband. He told me to find what I felt like was a comfortable pace that I could sustain, and then back off of that pace just a bit to find the pace that I could likely actually sustain and that's how I was able to keep going. Even still, if I find myself wanting to quit in the middle of a run, I just back off of my pace, but try to keep going. My sister and I now run about two miles five days a week and I sort of don't hate it. I still wouldn't say I love it, but I feel like my body does.