Monthly Archives: April 2010

Go Ahead, Give It a Go

Every couple of months I get an email or telephone call from a friend, a different one each time, asking me to please help motivate their spouse, friend, neighbor or sometimes just themselves.  By the time they call, themotivation is usually not needed.  The person they are calling about is almost always motivated but usually lacks the confidence to jump into a routine.  For the next week I usually spend several days emailing back and forth with the newbie, answering questions about shoes, nutrition, running programs, and ways to stay motivated.

I am not a coach.  I am not an expert.  So, why do these people call me for help?  Well, let me be completely honest with you.  When they first started calling almost ten years ago, I believed they were calling because they had told there spouse or friend, “Hey, if Chubby Ann can do it, then so can you.”  I haven’t been Chubby Ann for a while, so I feel confident enough now to say, they call me because I am one of the most committed exercisers they know.  I have been a runner for 18 years and I love it.  But beyond the love, it is how I identify myself, and it is how others think of me.  I am their running and fitness friend.

I received another of these calls this morning.  A friend is considering completing his first marathon but doesn’t know how to get started.  We had been emailing back and forth, with me saying many of the same things I have said for years, when suddenly it hit me – Maybe I should write these things down for people who don’t call but are interested in getting fit, running their first 5k, 10k or even marathon. So, here goes.  Everything I think a newbie to fitness and running should know to get started.

  1. Shoes and Clothes – Buy your self a good pair of proper running shoes from a real running specialty store.  Have them fitted for you so you know you are getting the right ones for your size and your goal.  Running in your old tennis shoes or even a pair of running shoes that you bought ten years ago, is the fastest way to sabotage a new fitness routine.  Clothes?  The same thing.  Make sure you get technical gear that looks and feels good, not the three sizes too big t-shirt that you got for free when ordering Christmas presents for the kids three years ago.  By purchasing these things, you not only make sure you don’t chafe and blister before your new sport becomes a habit, you also make a financial commitment to the idea of getting fit.
  2. The first mile is always the hardest – It literally takes our bodies a full mile to warm up to the optimum temperature for exercise.  People say to me all the time, “I can’t run a mile.”  My answer is, “But you could run two.”  If you get yourself past that first mile (walk it if you need to), then you can be a real distance runner.  Even after eighteen years I always take the first mile slowly.  I let my body reach its optimum temperature and then I speed up.
  3. Get a goal – Not a “I want to wear my skinny jeans” kind of goal.  That goal will be met easier if you have a race or walk in your calendar, one you have actually signed up for.  Make it something that is doable but is a little bit outside of your comfort zone.  If you have never run more than five miles, qualifying for the Boston Marathon might be a little tough, but running a half marathon three months from now is completely doable – if you have a plan.
  4. Get a plan – There are running programs everywhere.  Running clubs often have different groups competing in different events throughout the year.  Join one of these and make friends while you get fit. If you can’t do this, then go to www.runnersworld.com and look up training programs.  Once you have the plan, make it a priority. Schedule the runs, based on your program, and stick to them.
  5. Have fun – This is the one most easily forgotten tip.  If you are not having fun while you are running, you will probably not keep doing it.  Having fun while running is easier than you might think.  The trick is to remember that fun is part of the goal.  Look for things you enjoy.  Listen to music, dance wildly at stop lights, sing out loud, run through the woods, jump over puddles.  Run, like Phoebe on Friends, like you are a kid again.  Whatever it takes to make it fun, do it.  You will not regret it.

I am sure there are other tips and hints but these are the first ones I always give.  If you are an experienced runner and have additional tips, add them in the comments section.  If you are a new runner and have questions, ask them there too.  I am not an expert but after running for so many years, I have probably come across the answer somewhere and if I haven’t, I have lots of running friends who are always willing to help a new runner.

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A Certain Strength

After months of illness and injury, I am on a comeback and I have to admit, comebacks are not all they are cracked up to be.  A year ago, I was in the best shape of my life and felt more confident about my running than Ihad ever felt.  This year, though, having taken off a good deal of the spring to recuperate, I have found myself doubting.  Was I really that fit?  If I was, is it possible to be there again?  And if so, is it worth all of the work it will take?

In the past few weeks, my progress has been slow, my workouts have been tough and there has been some form of pain in every run.  Any joy I had found in running in the past seemed to have been buried under that cloud of doubt.  As a marathoner, I have learned to fight through walls. So, I pressed on.  Each day, I laced up my shoes and headed out the door in search of that joy.

This past Sunday, I found the joy again but with it came something I had forgotten about.  There is more to running than joy.  On Sunday, I headed out the door for an easy ten mile run.  I wasn’t sure how I would feel.  I wasn’t even sure if I could complete it, but I headed out anyway.  The first five miles I ran with a seed of doubt in my mind.  When would this run fall apart like so many of the others.  At the turn around, I noticed though, that the pain in my foot had stopped.  I actually felt good for the first time in months but, more importantly, I had found the answer to my doubts.  Suddenly, as I was heading back home, up three miles of steady hills, into a headwind that would make even my sister swear, the cloud lifted and I knew I could finish the run.  And there was the answer I had been searching for.  It isn’t just the joy that comes with running, it is the strength.

There is a strength that comes with running, not just a physical strength but a mental one.  After having trained for and run marathons for the past thirteen years, I have gained a strength that makes it all worth while.  The strength comes in the knowledge that, yes, I can run ten miles.  Hell, I can run 15, 20 and 26.2 miles.  There is a strength in that knowledge.  Because if I can do that.  If I can put in all of the miles it takes ahead of marathon day and I can put in the 26.2 on race day, if I can push through the pain that comes with all of those miles, then I am unstoppable.  If I can do that, then anything is possible.

I am on a comeback.  Every step will not be easy but that isn’t the point.  Now, that the cloud of doubt has cleared, I know that every step will lead to a renewal of that joy and a building of that strength.  And that is what makes it all worth while.

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Worth the Climb

After a winter filled with injury and illness and missing my first two marathons of the year because of it, I found myself sitting very snuggly on what my mother calls the pity pot.  I had lost so much fitness.  I couldn’t run as fast or as far as I had last fall.  I had gained weight.  I was at the bottom of the spectrum for training and I knew exactly how hard it would be to work my way back to the top.  For the first time in almost twenty years, I seriously thought about giving up on the fitness thing.  Without the time I put into working out and training for marathons, my house would be cleaner, I would be more organized and I might even find the time to write more often.

Luckily, I have surrounded myself, both physically and virtually, with inspiring people.  People who are in the midst of their spring marathons, training for their summer triathlons and registering for their fall marathons, but still finding the time to encourage the other athletes around them.  With their encouragement, I took a deep breath and stood up from the pity pot.  I strapped on my running shoes and reminded myself that anything worth having is worth fighting for.  Life is an uphill battle.  We can either stay at the bottom and be miserable or we can start climbing.

I choose to climb.  The first step of my climb always begins with a goal.  This year’s goal is to finish the Marine Corps Marathon in under four hours.  To be honest, this has been my goal for quite some time.  Though I haven’t gotten there yet, each year I get a little closer.  I am only seven minutes away and this is the year.

So, I climb.  Instead of sitting on that pot, I get up each morning with a plan, with a way to take that next step.  Some days I feel like I am climbing a mountain, but having done this before I know what to expect.  Having climbed this particular hill I know that there will be weeks when I feel like I could scale Mount Everest and there will be weeks when I feel like I can’t possibly take another step.  I know that there will come a time when all I want is for the race to hurry up and be here already and I know that once the race is here and gone, I will be aching for the next one.  Most of all I know that when I cross that finish line I will have accomplished something that most people will never accomplish and all of the work I put in will be worth it.

Each step I take between now and October 31 will get me closer to my goal and further from that pity pot, but the best part of this climb, is the feeling it gives me, the strength I find within myself and the knowledge that I am in charge of my health and fitness.  The knowledge that the harder I work, the more steps I take up that hill, the more my body gives back to me.   And all of this, the training, the pain, the hours taken from other ventures each week, the race itself, all of this or any one part of this is far better than that pity pot.

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