Hello Broccolini and Cheese readers!
I’m Jane from Jane’s Addictions.
B&C’s Jane and I started our blogs about the same time a few months ago, and chance brought us together as we were both drawn to the same Run Eat Repeat post. Like Jane, I am a beginner runner and just completed my first half-marathon in July, so today I am going to share some tips and personal experiences on how I went from 0 miles in January to a full 13.1 in July. I believe runners are not born, but made (yes, some may be lucky to have better genes and DNA composition so that they are stronger, leaner and more athletically predisposition).
However, it’s through rigorous training and determination that you become a true runner. I was not born with the “fit” gene (unlike those lucky bastards). On the contrary, after trying out for every high school sports team and getting rejected every time, I settled for being a team manager, taking attendance at practice and giving out bibs at meets (they felt so sorry for me that they gave me a merit award anyways at the end of the year.) That did not stop my desire to one day compete as an athlete, so years later I’ve built myself to a running standing (and even got myself a couple of awards to prove it J).
How did I do it?
- Intervals: Running for 20 minutes straight is something I could only do if a bear was chasing me, so I started with intervals. I would run for 1 minute and walk for another (repeat 8 times), plus brisk walking for 4-5 minutes to warm-up and cool down. Interval training is great at building up your running speed and leaning you out. I continue to do it today at least once a week at higher speeds.
- Get a run buddy: Training with a friend builds accountability and motivates you to get to the gym or a trail. Time seems to fly by when you are running with someone. You can chat and just having someone else by your side is a big push to keep going. You’d be surprised how much valuable information you can find out from other runners and learn together when running in a group. If your friends are not into running, there are lots of organized team runs, just check your for local event postings (at running and sports equipment stores, athletic clubs, internet). We runners are a friendly bunch (until we are in a race), and always welcome runners of all ages and experiences to run along. We might not all stay together, but it’s a bond and accountability that’s important.
- Sign up for races: Races are so fun! You get to make runner friends, see how you stack up against others, get an adrenaline rush, and something to proudly show at the end like a T-shirt, medal, a bib number. You never know how good of a runner you are until you complete in a race. Having intermediate races divides up your training plan so it’s less monotonous and there is something to look forward to. I did a couple of 5Ks, 8K, 8M, 10M, 15K prior to my half marathon. Just make sure to space them out far enough to give yourself time to taper out before the big one you’ve been training for.
- Stick to a training plan: Nobody wakes up one day and just runs a half-marathon. Running is a very high-intensity exercise. To get a successful result and to prevent injuries you need many weeks of training (18-20). It’s a serious commitment, but during the race all that hard work will pay off. There are lots of training schedules available on the internet for free. I went with the Hal Higdontraining plan for beginners.
- Strength training: Hitting high mileage week after week isn’t enough to make you a strong runner. It’s building core and leg strength, balance and endurance that will provide positive results. Look for some complementary exercises like circuit training for runners, yoga or Pilates. I’ve been doing circuit training twice a week and hot yoga 4 times a week and have seen significant improvements in my running.
- Form: I am still working on my running form. It takes a while to correct running form so try to learn the proper form early on. When I hit my first 12 mile run, I noticed my IT Band getting really tight and my knee starting to hurt. It turned out that I was slouching too much and landing too much on my heel, which put more pressure on my IT Band rather than using my hamstrings and glute muscles. Now I’ve been practicing to lean forward, keep my chest up, and strike with mid-foot. My IT Bands and my knees are much happier.
- Injury prevention: It’s not just completing one run, it’s about preparing for the next one tomorrow and the day after, so you need to spend at least 10 minutes after each run stretching and foam rolling (a foam roller helps massage the muscles to prevent scar tissue). If you are running 4-5 miles or more, you need to consume extra electrolytes. I like Nuun and Vitamin Zero water. They will reduce any muscle cramps and help minimize soreness afterwards.
- Nutrition: This is key component for me. When I eat wholesome nutritious foods and avoid alcohol, my body is lighter and stronger at the same time. I am able to run longer and harder. The last thing you want is belly ache and searching for a bathroom while on the trail. I eat a pre-run meal of whole grain toast, nut butter and berries or banana even when I am only running 3 miles. Some people might not be able to eat so much beforehand, so figure out which foods work for your body.
- Have fun: At the end of day, you’ve got to have fun with running. I fell in love with the sport after my first 6 mile race I ran to keep my friend company, but it’s not for everyone. I jump out of bed at 5am full of excitement to hit the road and I have a huge grin on my face after a good run no matter how long or cold it ends up being.
If you gave it a shot and it’s not getting easier and you still feel like you are dragging at your runs, maybe there is another sport better suited for you. My husband, for example, does not run with me, but he loves to bike. That’s his thing, which is totally cool! As long as you stay active and happy, that’s all that matters!