I have had this post rambling around in my head for a little while, but we were on holiday (I know I still owe you the rest of our holiday post as well) and then I didn’t run for seven weeks and thought I had no place giving advice to anyone, but I have been asked again about running so I thought I would put all my very limited knowledge here for anyone who may be thinking about taking up running…as I am currently in bed with my leg elevated after strained my hip flexor after yesterdays run I have nothing to do except obsess over not being able to exercise for awhile. This is a very long post by the way…so feel free to not read unless you are interested in running. Here we go…..
First of all I want to start by saying that running is not for everyone. I am a big believer in finding movement you love and find enjoyable. I don’t believe in pounding it out at the gym just because you need to exercise…given the sheer amount of options out there for movement I really just don’t see the point. I have tried everything from swimming to ballet, hula hoops to burlesque, soccer to the treadmill. Find something you love and you are more likely to joyfully race off to get your movement in. I never expected to love running, but I do. You should see me fist pumping the air and jumping around like a lunatic when I am done. I come home glowing (well sweating). I smile when I am done.
For those that may not have been reading my blog long I spent almost two years in bed, heavily sedated from being given a medication I never should have had. In two years I left my house less than 20 times…almost all of those were doctors appointments. The weight piled on (the medication was a triple threat – it was a sedative, it slowed my metabolism and it also made me feel like I was constantly starving) as I would just sit in bed and eat and sleep. Thankfully my husband finally made a doctor see reason and my medication was reduced by a third. With that I started moving again…mainly just around the house. In December last it was reduced again and I started to leave the house more. I was slow, I ached just after walking the six houses down to the shop and I got puffed really easily. I started taking burlesque classes with a friend once a week and had so much fun. The first class I was only able to participate in about 20 of the 60 minute class. But I persevered. In February I was diagnosed with Type II diabetes (a not unsurprising side effect of my medication). It was then I was determined to change my habits for the better.
Along with a change in diet (I avoid processed foods, sugar and processed white carbs for those wondering) I started moving more. The first time I went for a walk for exercise – I had planned a route of about 5km but I barely made it to 3km. At first I was devastated. I was so tired and it seemed like such hard work to have only gotten that far. But I kept at it. After six weeks walking wasn’t enough. I wanted a challenge, but I hated the treadmill and I needed something I could do any time, day or night (I have chronic insomnia) that required no fancy gear and that I could go at my own pace. So I started running.
To get started I used a program called C25k (the couch to 5km running program). It is an interval training program. What that means is you start of with short intervals of running followed by recovery periods of walking. I didn’t just head out the door and run 5kms. I started by running 15 seconds. The program said I was suppose to run for 30 seconds but I couldn’t make it. I am still nowhere near running 5km straight. I still can’t go for longer than a few minutes of running without stopping to walk, but just the other day I ran for a straight eight minutes. I was so excited that once I had recovered I was dancing around the oval and I totally freaked out an old couple walking their dog who quickly turned and walked in the opposite direction. I try to run three times a week. Two of those are my “short” runs. I walk 1km to the local oval as a warm up, do my C25k program, then walk the 1km home as a cool down. Once a week I add a few extra kms on the end of my program. Which means on a week where I manage all three runs I do about 20kms.
To help me keep track of how far I run, my pace and of course my C25k program I use some iphone apps. I am going to link to android apps where possible too and for those without a smart phone I am going to give you some options as well.
I am a bit of a geek and I like to challenge myself, meaning I like to know how long I have run and how far so I can compare it to last time. I have absolutely no interest in beating anyone else…just myself. The app I use to keep track of all those things is my nike+ app. It runs in the background using the GPS on my iphone. I have run all over my suburb and have yet to find a black spot. Even when I had no credit on my phone it still worked (I wasn’t expecting that). You can also log into the nike+ website to go back through your history and work toward goals (running longer, running more often ect). Nike+ is also free…so you can download it and get started straight away. For those that don’ have access to a smart phone you can use a website called Map My Run to enter your route and times afterwards.
Ease into 5km
The other “must have” app for me is the Ease into 5km app. It was created using the C25k program…but was forced to change it’s name.There are quite a few variations on this app, so if you don’t fancy this one have a look around to find one you like. Basically it is an interval program. You pop it on week 1, run 1 and go. It gives you a five minute warm up followed by increasingly longer runs and increasingly shorter walks. The Week 1 of my one is three lots of 30s run, 45s walk, Run 45s, Walk 60s, Run 60s, Walk 90s and builds up until you can run for about 30 minutes without stopping or approximately 5km. If you want to start running but don’t think you are fit enough or need some hand holding get this app. It costs $2.99 in iTunes and $2.91 in the Google Play store. I also upgraded in the app (I think it was another $1.99) for the GPS version. As the GPS is optional on this app it might work on a regular Ipod Touch. If you don’t have a smart phone or iPod touch you can download the podcast mp3s from iTunes HERE or you can use the original C25k running program at the Cool Running website HERE and just use a stop watch. I used the podcast originally years ago (before apps and smart phones) but I definitely prefer the apps so I can use my own music.
Next up is gear. For me I just run in stretchy pants and a $4 tank top from big w. If it’s cold when I leave I throw on a cardigan and tie it around my waist when I am sufficiently sweaty. Personally I have no interest in fancy running gear. I don’t care how I look when I run…in fact I am pretty sure I look like Pheobe from friends when she runs so what I wear is the least of my problems!
But with that said…given that I have quite a large bust (I am currently a 12FF) I need a supportive bra. Until recently I had all but written off high impact sports. It was just too painful in the bras I was using. After getting properly fitted a little while back and realising just how wrong my bra size was (I was wearing a 20DD and turned out to be a 16G) I decided to investigate a good quality sports bra in my real size. By the time I got fitted for my Panache Sport I had lost some more weight and had gone down a few sizes again, but with me loosing lots of weight and with the bra being $80 the lovely lady fitted me in a 12FF with a bra extender which came off a few weeks back. This bra is insane. I can’t tell you how much I love it. I get almost no boob movement. From the outside it looks more like a crop top than a sports bra which led to me thinking it wasn’t going to support…but that is just the outside, underneath that is two separated cups with underwire. I have zero pain when I wear this bra doing anything from skipping rope to running. It is well worth the money and I plan on replacing it with the exact same model when it gets too big. If you are a D cup or over go try it on…amazing!
Next up is sneakers. Now when you first start running just grab any old pair and go. If you love it then after a few weeks go get fitted properly. I chose to get fitted at Athletes Foot as in the past I have gotten shin splints from running. I also have weak ankles and weird hips and knees thanks to 3 pregnancies before I was 22 (the last being a pair of giant twins). For me the only way I could run was shelling out $200 on a pair of sneakers. I can’t tell you what they are as I don’t have a clue. I just went and was fitted by the team at athletes foot with their fitprint machine. I also chose to get dedicated runners rather than cross trainers or multi-purpose sneakers as I can wear anything when I am at the gym doing weights or on the bike. I really wouldn’t go out and spend the money though until you have decided running is for you or if you start to have any pains in your shins or ankles while running.
Drink Bottle. I know everyone is really getting into the metal drink bottle thing, but I have a massive aversion to the smell and taste of metal. Sometimes I can’t even manage to use stainless steel cutlery (left over pregnancy aversion). So I had been using and reusing a mount franklin water bottle. My nan (always on my case about my health…she also weigh trains twice a week to prevent osteoporosis and ran in the city to surf every year until she was 70) kept on at me about this and reusing takeaway containers in the microwave as they apparently breakdown and you actually ingest some of the plastic chemicals each time. Thankfully Smiggle came to my rescue with a plastic BPA free water bottle. I have been using it for about four weeks now and while I don’t feel any different, I am at least glad I am reducing landfill.
Sunscreen. I’m pretty darn pale and I prefer to stay that way. I always put on SPF30+ (at least) whenever I leave the house, running is no exception. I us whatever brand we have at home for my body (we are a family who are all super pale and burn easy…we have to buy our sunscreen in bulk pump packs). On my face I am currently using Nivea Sun Light Feel Daily Face Veil 30spf (isn’t that a mouthful).
That’s really all I use. A sports bra, a pair of sneakers, a drink bottle, sunscreen and two iPhone apps. If you are interested in what music I listen to when I run, you can find my running playlist HERE on iTunes.
Optional Extras – Hat & Sunglasses. As it is getting brighter and sunnier in Melbourne I am really thinking of purchasing a cheap baseball cap for running. I have also decided that my next big purchase will be a pair of prescription sunglasses. I am almost blind without my glasses so putting on a pair of non prescription glasses makes it dark & blurry…so it’s not an option, well not if I want to run anyway. As it gets brighter I am literally crying when I run. So if you have sensitive eyes or will be running while it is sunny remember your hat and sunnies.
Heart Rate Monitor. I bought mine when I was doing the 12WBT as it was recommended. As a tech person and someone who geeks out over gadgets I love mine. I have stopped using it to count the calories burnt though as I move from a weight loss focus to a healthy lifestyle focus, but I do love to look down and see if I am training hard enough. It gives me a target heart rate zone based on my age & weight. It also allows me to make sure I am keeping my heart rate up for my target 45 minutes so I can get my flood of endorphins. It’s totally not necessary for running, but I like to see my progress. I can see that when I first started running my maximum heart rate was a lot higher than it is now as I get fitter. I use a polar FT4 and I can even use it in the pool. Mine is a cool girly fuchsia.
As I have gotten right into running I have started reading and buying books & magazines on running. This has led to some anger and frustration as almost every magazine geared toward females and “health” is primarily about weight loss and trying to look like celebrities. I don’t want to read 21 different squats to make me “booti-ful”. I don’t want to read how someone hated themselves at 90kgs but now at 50kgs they have found love. I want to learn about health, well being and running. So here are my reviews on some books and magazines I have read (and also a DVD).
A quick side note here…as my daughters get older I worry a lot more about body dysmorphia and the ridiculous pressures of society to conform to a very narrow idea of beauty. Even “health” is so often confused with weight. If you have ever been larger yourself you will know that getting evidence based medical care is nearly impossible. I have been prescribed weight loss for everything from infertility to migraines to an infected throat. If you want to read more about these things and get yourself a little bit more educated I highly recommend the “dances with fat” blog and the Health At Every Size website. The more I learn the more committed I have become. As such you will no longer be reading about weight loss on this blog. I will however likely continue to talk about running and I am getting back into weight training which feels AWESOME.
Run Fat Bitch, Run
I bought this book as I thought it was a book about a fat runner. I was about 90kgs when I started running. As a size 16 I still consider myself to be a plus sized runner so I thought this book would be perfect. Oh how wrong I was. I feel sick at having ever given money to this author. The book starts off much like my tips – throw on some sneakers and just start running…but that is where the usefulness ends. I have long struggled with my body image and this book, in my opinion, is dangerous. Advising women to stand in front of the mirror with a photo of some half starved celebrity while telling yourself over and over again that you’re a fat bitch is just so wrong. I really believe this is a horrible, terrible, very very bad book. If you have any self esteem issues this is not the book for you. It is a book I want my money back for. I normally don’t care if I don’t like a book but this is repulsive and in my opinion dangerous. The author also has never been more than 10lbs “over weight” in her life…so hardly a “fat bitch”. Of course this is just my thoughts on the matter…but I have daughters, one who had the starts of an eating disorder at just nine years old. I believe books like this and magazines telling you how to drastically diet to loose 5kgs in a week are at least partially to blame. I can’t say enough how much I hated this book. I still read it from start to finish in case it got better….it didn’t. I will not link to this book or this author.
Runners World Complete Book of Women’s Running
I saw this in my local library and grabbed it to have a look at. This is a book I can get behind. It has plenty of running training programs – everything from learning to run, to training for a marathon. It also goes into issues women runners need to think about including a whole section on safety and running alone right through to running while pregnant. If you are getting into running I really recommend grabbing this book from your local library. Really great all round running book. I am going to buy this one as I think it covers a lot of ground. You can find it on Amazon HERE.
Womens Running Australia Magazine
To be honest I am not a fan of womens health/fitness magazines. I find most to resemble any other womens magazine, little detail and instead focusing on how you can drop a bunch of weight in a short period of time or trying to get the abs of some celebrity or eat this “super food” all day every day and the weight will just “fall off” – you know the stuff. Unfortunately I am not their target market. I don’t care about any of that stuff any more – I really just want to increase my health and fitness. I love inspiring stories, but prefer stories where they came back from illness to run a marathon than ones that focus on weight loss…but I digress. Womens Running Australia is the first fitness magazine I plan to buy again. The issue I purchased had some great inspiring stories, a half marathon training plan and a section on running prams. Obviously I am past the pram stage, but I just think these are the things female focused fitness magazines should be doing. It has advice for running in winter, running stretches and my favourite was a section that had about six mini interviews with female runners of all ages/stages talking about their own running. It’s featured exercise plan was a core workout and it has a running event calendar as well as some information about the more popular events. I also really loved its fashion spread, it was short and covered a variety of clothing types including these running shorts with a skirt over the top for those that want to be girly while running. All in all I found it appropriate, full of useful information to female runners and had little of the fluff and I don’t think I saw much if anything about weight loss or looking like the latest celebrity. For $8.50 I will definitely be buying it again. You can find it at your local newsagents or try their website www.womensrunning.com.au
The Runner’s Guide to Yoga
I have only just picked up this book at the library but already I am excited. I have been wanting to add in some yoga to my routine but seeing as how I am kind of running obsessed at the moment it didn’t seem too interesting…of course now I am injured with something that could have been prevented by more hip flexor exercises this book is looking like a keeper. The book starts off by explaining how yoga can help runners with strength and flexibility, balance and focus. It then moves on to cover various yoga moves/poses for strength and flexibility in sections (hips & thighs, core, lower legs and upper body). Part three moves into preventing & correcting overuse injuries, preventing acute injuries as well as balancing work and rest and studio yoga with at home yoga. In the preventing and correcting overuse section they have “self tests” which is you taking a specific yoga pose and then diagnosing yourself based on what feels strong or if you wobble. Then it has specific poses used to correct these issues. The next section really encourages you to remember to rest. As you will see in my tips/hints I never run on two consecutive day…some people who love running so much find this tricky (I know I do so this section tries to explain it better as well as giving you options for other movement that will support your running rather than doing “nothing”. Following on it explains why athletes (and runners) have different yoga needs. It then helps you to choose a class based on your needs and explains the different types of yoga classes and what they can help you with. Then follows up with how to set up a space at home to practice yoga. Part four moves into exercises for “focus” or the more meditative side of yoga. It covers a lot of race issues which is currently not of interest to me as I am still learning to run. But I am interested in reading the chapter about breathing again. I really struggle toward the end of a run with breathing. Part five is about pulling it all together and has routines for before a run, during a run (no, not yoga poses during a run – more breathing exercises and mantras and all that jazz), a post run routine and finally a post race routine. My only problem with the book is that I personally really, really struggle to figure out poses and movements from still images/instructions. Thankfully Sage Rountree (not her yoga/hippie name…but her actual name as she explains in her classes) has a DVD out called “Yoga for Athletes” both the book Yoga for Runners and the DVD Yoga for Athletes are available at amazon. But if you are impatient like me you can also view Sage taking her Yoga for Runners class at the Yoga Vibes website www.yogavibes.com and the class preview can be seen HERE. I signed up for the free trial and have been able to view all their yoga classes online including some great ones for children that I plan on using with the girls.
My Personal Running Tips
If you want to start running, but don’t think you are fit enough to just hit the pavement and run I really recommend a learn to run program like the C25K. It gives you a place to start and that place is relatively easy.
If you find yourself in a position like I first was…where you are really only just getting back into exercise after illness or bed rest start with walking. Put on your shoes and leave the house. Walk as far as you can and come home. Keep doing that at least three times a week until you can easily walk for at least thirty minutes or about 4km. If you want to push yourself walk faster. Speed up until you couldn’t hold a conversation if you wanted to. If you get tired slow down and then start again when you can. If I can go from lying in bed for two years to regularly managing 20km in a week anyone can. But start where you are. Don’t think you can’t do it because you couldn’t make the whole 30 minutes. Start with five. I used to have to take a break when walking the six houses down to the shops. You are where you are, don’t get hung up on what others can do.
BUT please go to your doctor first and get cleared for exercise. Especially if you are unfit or haven’t exercised in a while. I discovered along with type II diabetes I also had high cholesterol. In my case cardio was advised so I got the all clear, but I am glad I got the check.
If you are large breasted go and be fitted for a good quality sports bra. You may cringe and the cost like I did, but once you run (or do any high impact sports) in a good quality bra you will wonder how you ever managed before. If you haven’t been fitted for a bra in more than a few years, if you have lost or gained weight since your last fitting, have gone through menopause, have had a baby or been breastfeeding since your last fitting – run, don’t walk to a PROPER lingerie store to get fitted. Skip the department stores and bras & things (which seem to be staffed by girls who have yet to get breasts). I highly recommend Brava in Melbourne CBD and the lovely lady who runs Your Size Lingerie at Werribee Plaza.
Avoid the treadmill when you are just starting. Why? You won’t be able to run where your body is happiest, instead you will be either trying to go to fast or too slow according to what you think you should be running. Not only that the fresh air will do you wonders.
If you think you are going to have to stop and walk before your allotted running time is up slow down, but keep jogging. Sometimes I am sure I have slowed down so much that I am going slower than if I was walking but I keep on going. If I am feeling great I run harder. By running outside at my own pace I know I can’t do much damage to myself by running faster. My body will stop running long before I die (though it may not always feel that way).
If you get to the end of the week of your running program and are really struggling with the runs just do the week again. There is no deadline. Just keep plodding along at your own pace, but at the same time if you are finding your going further and faster (my C25K has gps as well and tells me at the end how far I went just with the program and what my pace was) but still haven’t moved on for fear next week will be too hard…it’s time to move on. Remember you can always run slower again during your longer runs if you have to.
Running surface…this is a big one. Most “experts” seem to recommend soft ground (grass for example) to help ease the impact on your joints. For me this wasn’t something I started until recently because I have really, really bad depth perception. I fall over a lot on grass as I can’t see holes and dips. I also have weak ankles and almost always I find a hole in the grass and roll my ankle. I decided it would be safer to run on a footpath. That was purely for my bizarre eyes. I recently moved from running around the local park on the footpath to running around the local soccer oval which is all grass and well lit. It has made a massive difference for my knees. I walked around it a number of times and it is really, really level so I gave it a go. If you are like me and need the safety aspect of concrete go for it. If things start aching then look to change.
When to run. Whenever you damn well like. I started off in the afternoons and evenings, but have switched to mornings just because life gets in my way otherwise. I also find I am totally high off my endorphins for at least a few hours. If I run late I can’t sleep for hours afterwards…but that is just me.
Endorphins. Now I really was starting to believe these were a myth. The first few runs left me so tired I was almost in tears at the end and just wanted to fall down. By about the two week mark things changed. I was no longer so tired after running and I was smiling and happy. For me running has now become my sex replacement. I feel the same after a good run as I used to after amazing sex. Except I am always like that after a run, the sex thing was kind of hit and miss. I get seriously pissy if I can’t get my running in. Another thing to keep in mind with endorphins is apparently you need to keep you my heart rate up for around 30-45 minutes (for me its 45 minutes) in order for them to kick in which is why I power walk before and after my runs if they aren’t long enough.
If you are thinking about how bad you look running, what you sound like or anything else…you aren’t running fast enough. Push yourself harder and all you will be able to think about is making it to the end of your run.
Stretching is important! If you have just 45 minutes to exercise don’t run for 45 minutes and then say you have no time to stretch, you will hurt yourself. I use these stretches from the cool running website after every run. Though after my injury I am also going to start doing some hip flexor stretches as well.
Don’t run everyday. Your body needs time to heal. I love running and sometimes I just want to run every single day of the week. I don’t because I don’t want to end up with an injury that will see me not running for months. Which is why, although I am terribly cranky as I was to exercise and get my endorphins, I currently have my feet up in bed and am resting. Which follows on to my next point.
If you hurt yourself STOP. I have been told no exercise for a few days, then I can start stretching again. It could be weeks before I am able to run again. But that’s better than me trying anyway, getting even more injured (like moving from a pull/strain to a tear) and not being able to run for months. The advice in all the books, magazines and websites seems to be R.I.C.E.D – Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation & Diagnosis. The first four are obvious…but the last one means if you don’t feel better after a day or two of those things (or if you are in chronic pain) to see a doctor or a phsyio.
Make sure you are sufficiently hydrated before you run. I never use sports drinks and from what I have read unless you are doing mega training you are unlikely to need them either. I try to drink at least two glasses of water before I run and another full drink bottle is generally finished by the time I get home from my run (my drink bottle holds two glasses). I only drink water, plain sparkling mineral water and tea. I drink at least 8-10 glasses of water every single day as otherwise I feel like crap. If you aren’t a big water drinker I really urge you to try it and see the difference….but remember you will need to use the loo a fair bit so remember to go before your run and if you think you might need the loo again plan your route accordingly.
Enjoy yourself. I have four kids who are homeschooled. My husband works from home. I have a house full of people 24/7. Running is my escape. For 45 minutes I can listen to whatever music I like (including songs that are filled with swear words and child inappropriate lyrics), I can go wherever I want and go as fast or as slow as I want. I run on my own because I need that time alone. It is my meditation. Running is keeping me saner than any mental health drug I have ever taken. If you need company find a running buddy. If you are like me and desperate for selfish time, run alone. Run in places you like whether that be somewhere picturesque or a track where you can see the finish line. Run only if you love it, not because you think it’s a quick way to lose weight or because someone tells you it’s awesome or you can fit it in to your day…run because it gives you something.