Last week, a long-time friend of mine asked me some questions about running because she wants to start moving to get healthy. I’ll keep her identity a secret for now, but I really wanted to share my answers to her questions because I know there are people out there wondering the same things.
Is it really that fun? Sometimes yes, but many times no. It’s not “Whoopee! Hee haw! What a jolly bit of fun!” It’s fun in the “I just challenged myself, pushed myself, and I was successful” sort of way. In the “Wow, I never thought I would be doing this” sort of way. One way to make it more “What a blast!” fun is to find a good running partner.
Why do I do it? For the sexy legs. For the hot bod. For the mental and emotional peace it brings. For the de-stressing power of that physical activity. For the deep, hard sleep that physical activity brings. For the long-term health benefits. For the time in nature (if you can find a nature-y place to run in). For the good soreness that comes after a satisfying workout. For the races and medals. For the camaraderie. For the friendship (if you can find a good running partner).
What should I do to start? If you are like I was before I started, you can’t run more than 2 minutes without wanting to head home and return your running shoes. I started with the American Running Association’s 12-week walk/run program (PDF). I only made it half-way through before I quit (I ran two 30-minute runs before the weather got cold and I lost motivation), but that was enough. When I started up the following spring, I had no trouble doing 30 minutes with a few walk breaks.
Then, pick a 5k to run. If you complete the ARA’s Walk/Run program, a 5k will be just a little bit of a push for you. Then, you just decide what you want to run. I like longer distances, like 10ks and half-marathons (21.1k) the best.
Why enter a race? It really helps me to have a goal that I am working towards. When I have a race on my calendar, I am probably twice as likely to stick to my running plan. It’s much easier to say, “Well, I don’t really feel like running today” when you aren’t training for something.
The key idea is to increase distance and difficulty (how fast you run, how hard you push) incrementally. Don’t try to do too much too early or you’ll burn out or worse–get injured. I could barely run when I first started, but by adding length over time, I made it all the way to marathon distance!
Any info/websites/ideas you want to share? Well, the race trick is the first one. The second is to find a good running partner. On the days when even a race isn’t enough to get you to hit the trail, a running partner will be there to pressure you. Sarah never needed to pressure me explicitly. It was enough just to know that I would have to tell her, “I don’t really want to run today.” And on the days when I had the guts to do that, she would say, “Yeah, me neither. But we’ll feel better about this crappy day after a run.” Or “Yeah me neither. But we’re doing it anyway.” Or “Yeah, me neither. But it’s 6:30 and I’m already awake, so you’d better be there when I get to the park.” :)
But a running partner’s work isn’t done once you get on the trail. If you’re alone, there’s no one to tell you that you can do it, no one to encourage you to push a little longer before taking a walk break. No one to pick up the pace for a few hundred feet. No one to high-five when you complete a good run. No one to tell you how sexy your legs look because she understands oh-so-very well what all those legs went through to get sexy. And on the not-so-sexy side: Your running partner is there to play look-out when you have to void in the middle of run.
Running partners also tell you about sales at the local running store or website. They help you find good deals on gels and water bottles and visors.
How do you find a good running partner? I’m not really sure. I found the best running partner through chance, fate, an act of God. You need to find someone who’s schedule is somewhat compatible with yours and who is at a similar fitness level. If they are too fast for you, you’ll always feel bad for slowing them down, and they might not have the motivation to stick with your partnership for very long. If you’re too fast for them, you won’t be getting the push you need and you might not have to the motivation to stick with it.
Now to the websites.
- LogYourRun.com: I love this website. It was started by some guys in St. Louis and it has everything you need from a running website: maps to see how far you ran today and to create courses you run regularly, a personal best page, forums to chat with other runners, iGoogle and iPhone/iPod Touch integration (their mobile site is very usable), and groups to connect privately with your running friends. Sarah and I started this group, Awesome Runners of Springfield, and it’s a great way to encourage others to keep up the hard work.
- HalHigdon.com: Hal is a classic. If you need good beginner, intermediate, or advanced training plans for all distances, this is the site for you. All of my training plans were either directly from Hal or a combination (I mixed the beginner and intermediate marathing training plans for the Berlin marathon).
- To find races in the Springfield area, the Ozark Mountain Ridge Runners site is a great place to start. For true Southwest Missouri races, check the Joplin Roadrunners site.
- Runners’ Lounge: This is a great site to help you connect with other runners and they have excellent resources and very accessible site managers, Amy and Tom. Amy is on Twitter (but she hasn’t updated for a while) and Facebook, and both Amy and Tom are good about responding to you if you post in a forum or when you join. They are very active in the community they have created and it’s very inviting! There is also a more general Runners’ Lounge Twitter account which is seeing much more action. If you join, here’s my profile–feel free to add me!
- Running bloggers! There are so many out there who have given me inspiration when I needed it. Here are some of my favorites.
- Vanilla at Half-Fast is funny and creative. Not to mention amazingly intelligent and sexy. And obviously better, faster, stronger, and more handsome than Viper or Nitmos. *
- Topher at I’ll Run From Donuts (Or the Artist Formerly Known as I Run For Donuts): A runner in the Kansas City area who runs so he can eat (like me!), but who is more recently trying to eat better (hence the new name).
- Frayed Laces is always inspirational to me. She is always doing something new and amazing with the tenacity of a bulldog. Multiple marathons, some on a whim, and recently, the Boston Marathon.
- Kevin at 5ks and Cabernets a Texas runner who loves wine and his adorable son. He inspires me because he’s always pushing himself and reminding me that I need to do that (I’m more of a comfort zone runner).
- Finally, Morgan at Morgan Gets Thin is inspiring because she is real and honest on her blog. She talks about her weight loss and her struggle to maintain that loss, the struggle to exercise when she doesn’t want to and the struggle to say no to food when she wants to say yes. I am not obese, but I struggle with portion control and what might be called light binging, so I always relate to the struggles Morgan blogs about.
In the end, for me, running comes down to saying, “Yes, I will run today.”
If you have great running websites, inspiring running bloggers, or running advice for newbies to share, leave it in the comments!
* I want to stay on Vanilla’s good side and I know he likes flattery to hear how awesome he is.