Monday, April 2, 2012

Useful Tips for New Runners

Today's Workout: 30 minute swim session

You will all be happy to know that I kept my promise and haven't run all weekend to give my poor knee a rest. I made an appointment with my family orthopedist (yes, my family is injured so often we have one of those) and will be seeing him next week. Unfortunately, I admittedly took resting my knee to heart and I didn't do much of anything at all for the past few days except devour Easter candy (Cadbury mini eggs and Cadbury caramel cream eggs are the loves of my life. YUM!). But the break is over and today its back to work. To ease up on my joints and ligaments, I did some swimming this afternoon followed by serious stretching. My body agrees with me best when I swim (hm.. is it trying to tell me something?).

best. candy. ever.... period.

It has been tough though not to be running, which could be why I ate so much candy to compensate. I was wallowing in self-pity and chose chocolate as my own form of self-medication. I guess there are worse things in the world..

Having so much time to just sit there and eat, though, gave me some time to think about how far I've come in my running career over the past few months. I started seriously running last September/October after the 2011 Tunnel to Towers run. Since then, I've run a bunch of races including a half marathon. Talk about an addiction. Six months ago I hated running and my longest distance was 3 miles. Now, not only do I love, love, love this sport but I finished my first half marathon (13.1 miles in 2 hours and 6 minutes!). Sort of crazy when you stop and think about how far you can really push yourself. I bet its more than you thought was possible!
                                   Me before: probably watching Bravo                   Me after: still a couch potato at heart, but a healthier one

Because of this realization I decided that I owe it to beginner runners to give some tips to help get them going on their own running journey. It really is a great sport that anyone can do. All it takes is heart, determination, knowledge and and some body glide. I know when I first started out I found a lot of helpful information from blogs, Runners World, forums, and the mysterious and magical Google (its amazing, you type things in and find an answer to your totally random questions!). Some of it you will learn as you go along, but I figured I'd pay it forward a bit and list some of the most important information that helped me. DISCLAIMER: This is just my own advice and recommendations. I am NOT a professional running coach or doctor or licensed anything.

*Make sure your body can handle running
Several months into training I realized something was not right with my breathing. I went to the doctor and, sure enough, I discovered I have chronic asthma. Now that I have medication, I can breathe more normally but I probably would have just given up on running had I not seen a doctor. Which leads me to my next point...

*Don't be afraid to see a doctor.
When you are an athlete, you will get injured. It's as simple as that. We try to avoid it as much as possible, but it happens. Don't hesitate to get something looked at by a professional. It could save you from pain later on!

 *Invest in a foam roller or The Stick.
You can find cheap foam rollers online (I use this one) and videos on how to use them on YouTube. The Stick is a bit more expensive but its great too and you can get a travel size. Use these often before and/or after runs (as your body needs it). They will help with recovery and preventing injuries. 

*Don't wear cotton socks during running. Ever.
Wearing cotton socks from Costco was a major source of foot pain, discomfort, and many blisters early in my running career. Because of this, one of my favorite days as a runner was finding out about the wonders of synthetic materials. I use DryMax socks but use whatever works best for you. Just no cotton!

*Make sure your running shoes are 1/2 a size larger than your normal shoes.
I accidentally did not abide by this rule and my first pair of Asics was a half size too small. The result: major blisters and some uncomfortable runs. Also your feet swell as you run so you need room for them to expand. Which is why this is so important...

*If possible, get specially fitted for your running shoes by a specialist.
 Running stores such as Super Runners Shop and Jackrabbit Sports have running shoe specialists who can analyze you foot, gait, and everything in between. They help you pick out the best shoe for your specific foot, running goals, and running style (e.g. midfoot striker vs heel striker). Since it's incredibly important you find the right shoe for you, definitely try to go to a specialty store if there is one near you.
*Buy Body Glide (or SportShield).
Once your runs increase in mileage, you'll know how important this is. Nothing ruins a run more than blisters or chafing (gross, I know. But it's a reality of running).

*Learn how to dress for the weather.
For an outdoor run, the rule is to dress as if it's 20 degrees warmer than it really is. This is because your body will warm up fast once you start getting into your run. Its crucial to layer up in cooler weather (so you can take off outer layers if needed) and don't wear too much in warmer weather. You should always be a little bit cool or chilly before you start running so that you are comfortable once you start. Again, though, listen to your body and its individual needs!

*Compression gear can really help.
 There's a ton of compression gear on the market now, from socks to shorts, to long sleeve shirts. You don't need to get all of it but it might be good to look into. A lot of these are great! I always wear compression socks to run and they decrease my recovery time and help the calves stay loose. Typically, you should wear compression clothing for a few hours after a long run for recovery.

*Be aware of the 30 minute post-run recovery window.
 The 30-60 minutes after you run are very important for re-fueling and recovery. The experts recommend food or drinks with a carb to protein ratio of 2:1 or 3:1. I usually drink a protein shake (Hammer Recoverite) with the right balance of carbs and protein, but a glass of chocolate milk with fat free milk works really well too. Also, ice and/or foam roll your sore muscles at this time to reduce any inflammation (especially all you shin splint sufferers out there). Don't leave ice on for more than 15 minutes at a time.

*Decide what you want to eat on long runs. 
 For runs an hour and a half+, you should be refueling every 45 minutes. Some people bring candy (e.g. gummie bears, Swedish fish) and others bring gels or chomps (e.g. GU Chomps/gels, Clif Shot blocks, etc). You will have to find what works for you based on taste, consistency, ease of eating, etc. Test out a few things then stick with what you like. I'm still working to find out what I like best, too, so I'll let you know when I decide!

*Don't change anything on race day.
Don't try out new shorts, don't try out a new type of food, and don't drink Gatorade if you never drank it during a run before. Bad things happen when you try something new for the first time on race day, so just continue the routine you used throughout training.

*If you find something that works for you, stick with it.
Even if someone tells you otherwise, if it works for you then don't change what you are doing. Every person is physically different so some advice isn't always universal. As long as you are injury and pain free, listen to your own body.

What other advice have you learned as a runner?


  1. hey there fellow injured runner!! riding the elliptical is better than nothing but it's by no means the same kinda endorphin fix as running! hehe..but it's best to stay positive and if that means eating our weight in easter chocolate then we are entitled! :)
    great tips here for newbie runners and CONGRATS on just how far u've come with running, and this injury will behind u soon enough and u'll be back out there accomplishing new goals soon! :)

    1. Thank you for your support and motivating words!! I am definitely anxious to get back out there and run but until then, chocolate is a pretty good alternative. Its certainly the time of the year for it at least haha. Good luck recovering from your injury too, hope its nothing too serious! Until then, at least we can blog about running :)