Wednesday, March 5, 2014

My Journey to Becoming a Marathon Mama & How You Can Get Moving Too

As many of you know, my passion is endurance sports, primarily running.  I am one of those strange individuals who actually enjoys running and doesn't see it as punishment or physical agony.  I haven't always enjoyed it as much as I do now though.  It has taken me several years to not only appreciate to the art of running but to also be physically capable of doing the activity.  I didn't wake up one morning and go run 5 miles and add distance from there.  I remember a time when even completing one single mile was incredibly difficult for me and the thought of finishing even a 5k seemed daunting.  But over time, I became more and more conditioned, and with that, so grew my love for the sport.  Since then, I have completed several 5 and 10k's, half and full marathons, and I have even done triathlons!  I am not a professional, I do not win these events and most of them time, I don't even place in my age group, but the accomplishment of finishing is enough for me to keep doing them!  Below, allow me to first tell you about my journey to becoming a marathon mama and what keeps me going.  Secondly, I will offer some advice on how to get started with your training.  Whether you want to actually start running or just get going with a new fitness routine, hopefully you will find this blog post helpful and inspiring.

I got started running several years ago in college so that I could become more active, and hopefully lose some excess weight.  Initially, I was very out of shape.  Before getting started, I was actually rather overweight and pretty lazy to be honest. A turning point for me was when I had to run a mile in under 10 minutes to declare my college major.  I made time with only about a second or two to spare and I remember becoming physically ill because I had never pushed my body to that limit before.  That was when I decided it was time for a change and started taking my health much more seriously.  I started jogging a little here and there and making small changes to my eating habits.  As time went on, I became more comfortable and confident with running and started getting in better shape, both physically and mentally.  I soon became very passionate about running and started doing 5ks and eventually longer distance races so that I would have something to train for and stay motivated.  In 2010, I ran my first marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington DC.  The whole experience, from the start of my training to the time I crossed the finish line, was life changing for me.  I have never felt more sense of accomplishment than I did when I received my finishers medal.  The months of training, waking up at 4am to go run when I would have much rather slept in, the pain of the shin splints and the blisters, the discomfort and unsightliness of toenails lost, were all worth the end result.  Running has not only changed my body, but it has changed me as a person.  I am now truly convinced that with hard work and dedication, we are capable of doing anything we set our minds to!

So if you're considering starting running or getting back into it after some time, here's a few tips on how to get started:

1. Start slow and small, then build from there.
Don't get discouraged when you hit the trail or treadmill for the first time and find yourself going slower and/or logging less distance than you thought you could go.  Just like anything else, we all have to start somewhere.  Stay consistent in your training, and before you know it, you will be doing faster paces and longer distances.  Be proud to even lace up your shoes and take that first step.  Build on each run, learn from it and grow as a runner and as a person.

3. Follow a running program.
A great place to get started with is the Couch to 5k programs.  It will take you from a sedentary "couch potato" to a 5k walk/runner in about 2 months.  You can even download an app directly to your mobile device, so you will know what distances to run and when, track your progress and stay motivated.  If you are looking into do a longer distance, a great half marathon training program that I have followed in the past is Hal Higdon's Novice Half Marathon Training Program.  And if you're ready to start training for your full marathon, I recommend picking up a copy of Jeff Galloway's Marathon: You Can Do It book.  There's plenty of information about not only running and programs, but injury prevention, diet and more.  These are just a few examples of running programs I have seen or used before, there are variety of other programs out there to follow, find one that works best for you.

2. Pick a race with a good cause.
In some areas, there are multiple races every weekend, so it can be a little overwhelming to chose one that is right for you.  There are color runs, midnight runs, princess runs, scavenger hunts and so on.  But let me suggest you finding a race whose beneficiary is a cause you believe in and/or have a personal connection to. That way you will feel more vested in the training and completion of the race.  There are many great charities and causes these races help raise funds for, so do a little research and find one that hits home for you and you will be even more proud when you cross the finish line.

4. Join a running group.
Teaming up with other runners has many wonderful benefits such as accountability, motivation, encouragement and camaraderie.  It's also a great way to meet new people who share a similar interest and learn about exciting running events in your area.  Your local running store and are great places to start looking for running buddies.  USAFit offers half and full marathon training and Moms Run This Town is a great one for women who run a variety of distances.  If you cannot find a local running group, recruit your friends and family and make your own!

5. Don't neglect the weight room.
Now that you're up and running, it's important the incorporate cross training into your weekly workout routine.  Strength training will help build lean muscle, improve strength and muscular endurance, and increase flexibility.  All of these components are essential for runners.  Schedule your strength training days on your off running days.  And remember, don't be afraid to lift heavy (see my blog post on Female Fitness Myths)!

6. Get the gear.
You could potentially spend hundreds of dollars on your new hobby in just minutes in a running store, but the best investment you'll make in your new adventure will be your shoes.  Check out places like Fleet Feet and Track Shack and speak with their highly knowledgeable sales associates about proper footwear.  All feet are not created equally so there is no one specific shoe for all runners.  A few other suggested items to help you along with your running, especially as you start increasing your distance include:
  1. iPod, loaded up with your most motivating songs
  2. Hydration belt
  3. Garmin navigation watch
  4. Body Glide anti-chafe balm
  5. A couple pairs of good running socks (These are some of my personal favorite)
  6. Gu's, bars and electrolyte drinks for your long run
Running may not be your cup of tea, and that is perfectly ok.  But I guarantee there is something fitness related out there for you to grow to love more and more and bring you the pride and sense of accomplishment running has brought me.  Think about what activities you enjoy.   What can you dedicate yourself to and get better at every day?  What can you do that could offer you continued motivations and challenges?  Whatever the activity may be, set goals and commit to it.  You will amaze yourself with what your able to accomplish if you stay focused and consistent in your journey!

Whether you're new to running or a seasoned vet, CWSC Performance offers a variety of programming to help take your running to the next level.  Contact Coach Christina at 321-217-5857 to learn about our training services and how to get started today!

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