Tuesday, November 9, 2010
So... I am still running. I KNOW. I am amazed.
When I read this post, I am amazed. Amazed because 1) I don't have shin splints any more, and 2) I am still running.
For a while it appeared that I would always have pain. That there was something wrong (?) with me. I have taken up running now and again several times over the past years. I always loved it and I could never do it for more than a week or two. And I don't know any runners in person I could ask about the pain, nor could I get any advice that applied to me and my situation, that would push me to make running a regular habit.
I have had more than one person ask me how in the world I got from where I was, doing nothing, to where I am now. Where I am only doing something. I feel the need for some transparency here -- I am not a workout queen. I have not lost any weight that I have noticed, but I don't weigh myself. I still do the Hobbit Shuffle, but I am trying to transition into a longer stride. I don't do this every day or even several times a week. I do it when I can, when I want to, when I feel like it. I still feel like it. The more I do it, the more I want to do it.
And when I say "running" it is a shorthand for an entire experience of stretching, exercising in place, walking, walking mixed with jogging, walking mixed with brief periods of actual running that I strive to make longer and longer, more walking, more stretching, and collapsing in my car with a giant water bottle.
There is a lot of information online, but I have learned that while information online might be helpful to some people, it does not work for me. So I had a lot of experimenting, and a lot of pain, both physical and mental, as I got to this point.
Here is where I am now. Here is what I am doing now. In the spring I may do none of this, or I may be doing more, and I may be amazed even more. This information may help you too. I was very motivated and inspired by several out of shape and overweight scrapbookers who made this change, and I found it super helpful to read the specifics of their own practice.
If you are a person for whom fitness and exercise comes naturally, you may not understand this... but telling people who don't exercise to just "exercise" or "move more" really does not help. I remember all the years when I did not cook, because I really could not do it. Everyone said, impatiently, that if I could read a recipe then I could cook. Oh well, guess what I know now, now that I am a cook -- cooking also requires things like knowing what kind of recipe you can make, making a trip to the grocery store, knowing how to choose an avocado, having basic equipment, knowing how to brown chicken or how to chop an onion. No, we are not BORN knowing any of this. We have to learn it.
Here are some things I have learned that work for me. This is a combination of basic information about very beginning running combined with my own habits that support my practice.
1. You need EQUIPMENT.
Everyone said this, and it was one of the things I didn't want to hear. And I have heard it from other people I talk to about it now. One of the appeals of running is that it's "cheap and easy." You put on a pair of shoes, you go outside, and we all know how to run, right? Just do that. Can't you just put on the shoes you might have? Just go?
For you, maybe, for me, NO. I really struggled with the idea of paying over $100 for a pair of running shoes. I had a pair of Reeboks, certainly not a cheapo brand. I bought them to go running. I used them several times, I loved running, and I had to stop because the pain would not lessen or go away.
The shoes are something you cannot really skimp on. Last week I put on my old Reeboks just to walk around and the difference was immense, now that I am used to the new Asics. Even walking in the Reeboks felt like walking on concrete. The soles were very hard. Walking in the Asics feels like walking on a cloud. There is a lot of "bounce" there. It's a very springy feel. Additionally, feet swell when you run so running shoes should be big enough that you can fit the top of your thumb between your toes and the toe of the shoe. I bought the Reeboks to fit me exactly and now they feel way too tight.
I am lucky to live in a large metro area where I could make a trip to a running store. I had my feet and my walk assessed. I was professionally measured, both feet. I have high arches, which is unusual, and a wide toe box. Most running shoes, especially cheaper ones (under $80) are made for people who need a lot of arch support. Since I have high arches, that extra support was forcing my feet to curl outward, which makes shin splints worse. This is the kind of thing you find out from professionals.
I tried on several pairs and ran a bit in all of them, in the store. If you don't have that option, I am not sure how to overcome it. For someone else, buying online might work out ok. I needed to try them all on. I also ran a bit so they could assess my form and tell me if I was doing anything that was causing the pain. I was not.
Now here is the thing about the shoes that is relevant for me specifically.
I don't wear these shoes for anything but running. I don't wear them to the grocery store or to school or for hanging out. They are in the box, the box is on my dresser, where I can see it. The COST of the shoes is highly MOTIVATING for me. Honestly if I had NOT purchased these shoes I probably would have given up entirely. Instead, it weighs on me that I made this investment. I don't want to waste my money.
In my head I do a cost-per-use tally. So if I run in these shoes twice that is $xx for each run. whoooo, pricey! I figure once I have run 20 times then the cost-per-use is low enough that I have gotten my money's worth. That is motivating to me.
So the idea that I have this special piece of equipment that I take out purposefully and use for it's intended use, is very motivating for me. I find then, that I put on the shoes, that means I am going out for a run. I might do something else too, after (run an errand on the way home), but in my head I am thinking "Gotta run, gotta run." I don't put them on unless I have time to run, and unless I am also wearing running clothes. I think twice I have ended up not running, for different reasons. But mainly, putting them on puts me in that mind set. That is important to me.
1.B. Other Equipment
There's other stuff you may or may not buy as well. Running, like any other hobby or endeavor, has a whole lotta "stuff" that can come along with it.
* Sport bra - I didn't own one so I bought one for $12 at WalMart. I also only wear this when I put on the shoes. I could buy another, but again, having the ONE thing that is special and set aside is somehow motivating. I hand wash this when I take it off.
* Workout pants - I already owned 2 pairs and I have since gotten 2 more for free. I wear these all the time so I didn't buy more. I wear them whenever.
* Running tops -- I bought one Danskin tank at WalMart for a WHOLE DOLLAR, and I wore that when it was warm. I love this tank. But I only wear it for running. If it got chilly I put another T-shirt on over it. I only put this on for running.
Now that it is much colder I bought a long sleeved Danskin tee at WalMart for a whole $8. I can layer this over the tank. I can run in any T-shirt but I like the material and cut of both these Danskin tops. Again I hand wash them when I come home.
* Running socks -- I bought one pair of these at the running store, for $9. Expensive but worth it. They are super thin and made of a material that wicks sweat away. Unlike cotton socks they do not get hot, they do not rub and cause blisters. I only wear these with the shoes and only to go running. I hand wash them.
If I do laundry I do throw all these things in there and give them a good wash, but I hand wash when I come home because I go running far more often than I do laundry. YMMV.
* Dorky fanny pack -- There are all kinds of cool things you can buy to hold whatever your music source is (more on music next) but I spent $6.99 on a small fanny pack at WalMart, found in Sporting goods. I LOVE this freaking thing. I wish they were in style, or cuter. It holds my car keys, lip balm, phone, etc.
* Windbreaker -- This is a very new addition because it's recently been too cold to go running just in a couple T-shirts. I probably should also keep it just for running but I just like it too much (wearing it now). It's a very lightweight zipper windbreaker I just bought at Old Navy, in the men's department. I had looked around for a women's jacket but they were all too small, too tight, too heavy, too expensive. Old Navy outerwear is 50% off right now, so this was a huge $15.
Other equipment I use -- my iPhone, my iTunes, Skull Candy earbuds, sunglasses, water bottle.
2. I use my PHONE.
I use my phone in two ways -- for music and for timing.
I think a lot of people listen to music when they run. Some people prefer the silence, but I use music. Everyone has a different way of using music, so I'll share mine.
I own an iPod and I rarely if ever use it. I did use it at the gym but... it bugged me. Some people really enjoy the process of hooking it up to the computer, making playlists, switching things around. I really hate it. What a pain.
I bought an iPhone last summer and it is a huge part of my running. Because I don't like messing with my iPod, iPhone, and Mac, there is different music on everything. If you listen to your iPod music in the car or in the house, this will not work for you.
Me, however, I find myself downloading songs onto my phone when I hear them and love them. These are not always "new" songs. Sometimes they are new -- like Hot Tottie by Jay-Z and Usher. Sometimes they are old songs I have not heard in forever -- like Fight the Power by Public Enemy. Sometimes they come on the radio as I am driving around looking for a park to run in. Sometimes I hear them featured on a TV show -- Glee, Vampire Diaries, So You Think You Can Dance -- then I look them up on iTunes and buy them.
So basically my phone has all the most recent songs I have wanted to own and listen to, and since I hate hooking up my phone to my computer, I rarely get to hear said songs any other time. As I am driving around to go to a park to run, I think about music. I usually stop and buy a song, a single song that is in my head. It is usually a fast song. Then when I am ready to run, I listen to that song. Yes just the one. To buy it, I must really like it. I want to listen to it over and over. I don't get bored because I really enjoy the song.
I'm going to talk some about stretching and warming up later, but for now I'll say during the warm up time I don't listen to the new song(s). That is the time I listen to the slower songs on my phone that I love and never hear.
None of this is hard and fast. I've just noticed that if there is a new, fast song on the radio or a song I loved back in the day that I can download and have to listen to, I really like that and I enjoy the running time. Sometimes I listen to the last 2-3 songs I bought, sometimes just the most recent, sometimes I don't buy a new song at all. The fact that I can't or don't really get to listen to these songs any other time contributes to my enjoyment.
My iPhone also has a stopwatch and timer feature. I use this quite a lot. Some people like to create playlists with songs of a certain time but that does not work for me. So I will set the timer on the phone for a length of time. I will walk or run for that length of time. There's probably an easier way to do this but I just find being able to hold up the phone and see that I have 10 seconds of a sprint left helps me keep going. I also keep track mentally of how many times I have done a 2 minute, 1 minute, etc cycle.
What really helped me with the shin splints was shortening my running time to 30 seconds. I hated to do it, but it worked great. I could run or jog for 30 seconds, no problem. I would set my timer for 2 minutes, walk for 1:30, and when it got to 30 left, I would start to run. this helped me build up to longer times without pain.
So the phone is a big help to me. I know there are also running apps and I may look into them in the future. There is also a Nike+ gadget that I'd like to get, so I could use my phone and computer to track my progress. But I don't need it yet.
There are lots of other things involved here as well and I will get to them eventually, but I think this is long enough for now.
I'll finish by saying more explicitly something I've mentioned in passing more than once. For me, the process of suiting up is very important. It sets aside the time from the rest of my life. Kind of like when I wanted to scrapbook, i didn't just sit down and jump in. I always spent some time browsing ideas, tidying up my desk, looking through supplies. I had to get myself in that mental space.
The mental space is super important to me. When actors are trying to get into a character, they put on the wardrobe, they change their walk, they get hair and make up done. It helps make the transition.
For me, I have special things I wear only when running (shoes, socks, bra, tank, fanny pack). These are mixed with some items from my daily life (workout pants, phone, headband, sunglasses). At home I go through a process of getting dressed. This tells me mentally that I am going to be running sometime that day. I used to then just walk outside and go do it, but I've moved to a bad neighborhood so now I have to drive somewhere to run.
Thus I have a 2-3 stage process --
First getting dressed at home.
Then getting in the car and driving while thinking of where I will go (I like going to different pretty areas, and I also liked just walking out my front door and going around the block 10 times).
I "suit up" even more at the moment when I get out of the car. I switch jackets or take off my extra T-shirt or whatnot. I get out the phone and my earbuds. I hook myself all up. I put on the waist pack and put my keys and other items into it. I lock up the car. I put on a headband, my sunglasses, and my ear buds.
For some reason having both sunglasses and earbuds on is really important to me because it creates a feeling of being alone in my own bubble, though I am outside in public. I tune out any internal voices that might discourage me from running, have me worry about what I look like, who else is around, and any judgement I might project.
I'll talk more about the actual running process at some future time, and also what I did about the shin splints. But maybe some random internet person will find these thoughts helpful.