Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Becoming a Runner, After Babies

I have always wanted to be a runner. When I was a kid (like most people), it came easy. I was fast too! But swimming became my sport of choice, and since it is year-round, I never got into running. I tried again about a year before having Liam. It didn't work. I was able to keep it up for a couple of weeks at the most. Once again, I tried after Liam was born, but being a mommy was exhausting and an imbalanced Thyroid was draining any energy I had left. This time, I have stuck with it for almost two months, and I love it!

I started running mainly to get my body back into pre-baby shape/weight after having baby #2, and although this is still a wonderful perk, I now do it because I enjoy it. I can't put my finger on what has made running "easier" to stick with this time around, but there are quite a few things that are different about the situation, and I'm sure they have all contributed to my success.

Here are some things that seem to have helped me to become a runner after having two handsome boys:

Liam and I on our first run together
1. Sign up for races. This has helped me to stay motivated and pick up the pace since the beginning. About a week after starting to run, I signed up for a 10k. I knew it would be hard to go from a non-runner to a 10k in a little over two months, but by reaching for such a high goal, I have been motivated to add more distance to my runs, as well as quicken my pace.

2. Connect with Other Runners. Join running groups, make running dates, sign up for runs together. All of these situations help to hold you accountable, as well as make the workouts fun. Since becoming a runner, I have joined three running groups, which has been invaluable in many ways. They motivate me to be better, they give me advice, and they give me opportunities to run with others.

3. Think of it as a Break. I get ready for my run about a half an hour before my husband gets home. The second he walks in the door, I'm gone! I think of my runs as my baby-free time. Since I go as soon at my husband comes home, I don't have time to talk myself out of it. I think that it was key to my success, that I started this while still being home on maternity leave. This was the time where I felt like I needed the break from my boys the most. Then I got into the pattern, and it has just became the schedule.

4. Start Slow, but Build Up Quickly. My first run was a little over a mile, with 3-4 walking breaks. I was slow and exhausted by the end, but each day I ran just a little bit more and tried to cut out my walking spurts. Within two weeks, I had run a 5k, but still had some walking breaks. In another two weeks, I was going a little less than 5 miles, but with no breaks. And now, about two months into it, I have run several 10ks without stopping.

5. Run Where You will be Kept Accountable. Not everyone can do this, or would want to, but I'm a teacher in the town I live in. I purposefully run in neighborhoods where my students live. You might think I'm crazy, but I do this for two reasons: 1. I will keep my form in check if I know someone may be watching me. 2. When I pass people I know, I work harder. I don't want to look like an idiot, and I don't want to look slow, so seeing people keeps me focused. Also, waving to people as I run, or having co-workers honk as they drive by, makes me feel good about what I'm doing. It's great motivation, if you can get past looking hot, sweaty, and disheveled around people you know.

6. Keep a Schedule. I decided that two days on, one day off, would be the best schedule for me. It worked well for motivation, with my family needs, and keeping my body going. Some days, I replace a run with a long walk with the family, but I'm active both days that I'm scheduled to run.

7. Join I love this site. It's a great tool for tracking progress, keeping to your schedule, sharing your activity, and keeping you motivated. I love seeing my stats go up (or down when it comes to pace). Mapping my runs has been helpful in deciding how far to go, where to go, and how good of a work out it will be or was.

Although keeping with it has been easier this time around, it's still a bit of a battle once I'm out on my runs. Here are my tips to having the best possible runs:

1. Take an ipod. I know, I know.....many of you are thinking, "Duh!". But it really is an important piece for my running success. It keeps your mind off of the run you are on, and makes the time pass much quicker. Also, make sure that the songs you have chosen are motivational to you, and will push you to go farther and faster. I realized that some of my song choices are too slow/just not motivational, and it made that run less successful.

2. Pick a specific place to run to. Break your run up into smaller runs in your mind. I tend to think, "Just get to the school.", then once there, I think, "Just get up the hill". I do this throughout my run to make it seem like less of a struggle. Each time you run, either try to run a little bit faster, cut out a break, or go a little bit farther. But don't wear yourself out! Don't over do it, because it will take longer to recover, ruining your hard work.

3. Look directly in front of you when you run. I try not to actually look ahead while running. I keep my focus on the ground in front of me. For me, this helps me to not think about the obstacles ahead, and I tend to not notice things like elevation change as much as if I were to see the hill coming from a mile away.

4. Drink a cup of water before, and several after your run. I only drink one cup before I go, because having to pee while you run is not fun and can shorten your distance considerably. However, it's important to stay hydrated, so stop for a drink if you need to, and definitely drink a lot when you are done.

5. Get the right equipment! Thanks to my running buddies, I have learned how important it is to have all of the right supplies to be a successful runner. Good shoes can fix almost any ache/pain and the wrong clothing can make your run extremely uncomfortable. This is where having running friends is so helpful! They can give you advice and suggestions of stores, brands, sizes, opinions, and other information needed to make an educated decision.

I will do my first official run in a few short weeks, and I'm so excited. I'm proud of myself for the progress I've made, and can't wait to see what I'm doing in a couple of months more!

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