I never thought I would call myself a runner. I never ran until I got to college, and then, when I ran even short distances, I would have so much pain in my knees I would need a week to recover. And let’s not even talk about the extreme shortness of breath. I seriously felt like I was going to keel over when I ran. I hated running. Hated it.
So it sounds unbelievable to say that I’m 51 days away from running a marathon and that I love running. How did that happen?! Especially since I spent most of the decade leading up to the big 4-0 more than just a little overweight.
If you’ve been following my weight loss story at all, you know that losing weight was a progression that involved a shift in my perspectives on food and eating which led to a change in eating habits and finally the beginning of weight loss. It was October 2013. I had lost about 15 pounds, and exercise had become a part of my daily schedule. I was feeling motivated, but I was a little concerned about losing momentum with the upcoming holidays. I had been exercising exclusively in a gym and with holiday hours at the gym, I knew that I would not be able to be as consistent with my exercise schedule.
So I decided to try running again. It was something I could do anytime, anyplace, on Christmas day, morning or night. But how to get started? My former experiences with running were not good ones, and I don’t know about you, but I really don’t like pain. So, you ask, what did I do?
- Get fitted for quality running shoes. I’ve discovered that the most essential piece of running gear for me is a good pair of shoes. When my feet are happy, I have a much better run. And, I discovered, that a big part of the knee pain I was experiencing was corrected with proper shoes. Tulsa has several good running stores, but Fleet Feet has become my go to store for all things running. When I went for my first pair of shoes, I jogged barefoot on a treadmill in the store for just a few minutes while my gait was recorded. From that video the sales person realized that my feet rolled inward every time my foot landed which could contribute to knee pain. He recommended insoles and a running shoe that was about 1/2 size larger than I usually wear. Larger shoes give your feet more room to move with the motion of running. I highly recommend being professionally fitted for running shoes. They are definitely worth the expense, and since they only need to be changed every 300-500 miles, they will last for a long time. And I’m running pain free!
- Download couch to 5K app. So I had my shoes. Now I needed to figure out how to get from not running at all to running, preferably without dying in the process. The C25K app by Zen Labs did the trick for me. The app is free, and takes you through an 8 week walking/running progression to get you from the couch to running a 5K. The app lets you play your own music which is only interrupted by the voice that says, “Begin running now.” or “Begin walking now.” It has a timer so you can see how long you’ve been running, and it lets you go back to previous days or skip ahead if you want. I did repeat a few days early on before going out for runs was habit, but I would not recommend skipping ahead. When I started the app, I didn’t really believe that I’d be running 3 miles nonstop at the end of 8 weeks, but I worked through the program religiously, and yes, at the end of 8 weeks, I could run 3 miles. They weren’t a fast 3 miles, but I could do it.
- Run with a metronome. Yep, I ran with a metronome. It’s used to keep time in music, but it’s also helpful for runners to increase cadence. Cadence is just how quickly you pick up your feet. It has nothing to do with how fast you run, but is all about how many steps per minute you’re taking. I discovered that a slow cadence was also part of my knee pain. The sales person at Fleet Feet is the one who recommended a metronome, and I’m so glad he did! The idea is that as you’re running, concentrate on taking a step with each beat of the metronome. It’s harder than it sounds, but it was especially helpful for me. While my cadence is still not where I want it to be, I only ran with a metronome for a few months until I began to feel the rhythm of running. There’s probably a metronome app because it seems there’s an app for everything, but I went with this Seiko metronome that I could clip to my shirt and still listen to music on my phone.
- Sign up for a 5K race. When I started running, my goal was weight loss and exercise. I had no aspirations for running competitively, but signing up for a race gave me a goal to work towards. And having a goal to meet provides accountability. I know that if I don’t do my training runs, I’m not going to be able to complete the race. Plus, races are just fun! Runners are very encouraging and supportive of one another, and races have very much a party atmosphere. Truthfully, completing my first 5K in May 2014, at the age of 41, is what really turned me into a runner. I had such a runner’s high when I crossed the finish line that I could not wait to run again. Here I am at the end of the race.5. Run! To be a runner, you have to run! I’ll be writing more about my progression in the sport, picking up speed, running longer distances, my favorite gear, etc., but these are the basics that turned pudgy 40 year old me into a runner and a marathoner hopeful. Never say never, right?
Happy running! And because I no longer need my metronome, I’d like to give it to one of you. If you’re thinking about starting running or are a runner and think a metronome would be helpful, leave a comment telling me about your running experience. Winner will be chosen at random.