Tips for becoming a runner: vol. 3…Go trail running

Tips for Becoming a Runner

As a result of my unrealistic desire to turn everyone into a runner, I’ve decided to share some tips about what helps me keep running. While I’m no expert, I’ve been running for seven years now, which, at the age of 29, is 25% of my life. Thus, I’ve accumulated a few ideas for how to go from running-is-miserable-torture to running-is-freedom.

These tips are in no particular order of helpfulness, and may not work for everyone. But I hope they inspire you just a little bit!

Tip #3: Go trail running.

trail run photo

The words “trail” and “running” together sound really hard core, like going for a run will turn into navigating crevasses and avoiding rogue rattlesnakes.

In the midwest, however, trail running is often just another way of saying “run somewhere besides the sidewalk.” I have two sidewalk routes in my neighborhood that are my regular routes. They’re great during the week when I don’t want to put any effort into deciding where to run. (Even the smallest of barriers to running, like having to decide where to go, often become insurmountable during the school year.)

But on the weekends, those routes become really, well, routine, and I start to dread running past the same old scenery. As you probably figured out, I do everything I can to look FORWARD to running, instead of dreading it. So now I use trail running to find new places to go.

I’m lucky to live in an area full of hiking and biking trails, so finding trails hasn’t been difficult. I purchased one of those 60 Hikes Within Wherever You Live books, and use that as a sort of checklist to decide where to go. I usually find a trail that can take me 3 to 6 miles, and I make sure to bring a water bottle in the car for when I return.

Even if you don’t live near an extensive network of trails, find a river or park in your city where you could go. Switching locations will hopefully keep you motivated to go for a run. Your body will appreciate the break from pounding on sidewalk. (A lush carpeted forest is so much better for the knees.) And prairie flowers are much prettier to look at than old apartment buildings.

IMG_5244Happy running!

Tips for becoming a runner: Vol. 2…Listen to interesting things while you run.

Tips for Becoming a Runner

As a result of my unrealistic desire to turn everyone into a runner, I’ve decided to share some tips about what helps me keep running. While I’m no expert, I’ve been running for seven years now, which, at the age of 29, is 25% of my life. Thus, I’ve accumulated a few ideas for how to go from running-is-miserable-torture to running-is-freedom.

These tips are in no particular order of helpfulness, and may not work for everyone. But I hope they help a little!

Tip #2: Listen to interesting things while you run.

Now, this is a controversial one, because there are a lot of people out there who say you should run just for the pure joy of running. Be in touch with your body, pay attention to your surroundings, listen to your own thoughts, and all that.

If you’re one of those people who can run this way, I am extremely impressed. Keep it up.

I, however, am not one of those people. I don’t like listening to the sound of my labored breathing, and I get so bored focusing on my mind replaying the day over and over again. When I don’t have headphones to distract me, I end up dwelling on little aches and pains in my body, or the extreme level of humidity, or any other excuse to stop running. Thus, I am a big proponent of bringing along your ipod (or whatever) and listening to interesting things to help you get through the run. Such as…

MUSIC!

I make my own playlists, and always keep at least one playlist on my phone titled “Running.” The songs are usually upbeat, dance-y type songs, or else epic instrumentals that leave me feeling motivated. I also have playlists titled “Training,” (for really long runs) “Mellow,” (on those rare days when I can run to slow music) and “Life” (for nostalgic purposes).

Sometimes I listen to playlists that people have made on Spotify, like this one and this one. Also, Spotify just came up with a new program that tracks your steps per minute and makes a mix for you! I haven’t tried it yet but it looks pretty awesome.

I also love the podcast called Music that Matters, from Seattle radio station KEXP. They put out an hour of new music each week, and sometimes have ones called Runner Powered Podcasts. I love these and keep them on my phone even after I delete other episodes. The DJ plays perfect running songs and intersperses them with inspirational running quotes. The latest one is my current favorite!

PODCASTS!

It took me a long time to realize how genius it is to listen to podcasts while you run. It’s like reading, my favorite thing in the world, only you can do it while running! There are a million different podcasts out there, but I find the ones that work best for me to listen to while running are the story-telling podcasts. They keep me focused on the story, rather than my desire to stop running, and sometimes minutes (whole minutes!) can go by where I don’t think about how my body feels, but instead think about what will happen next in the gripping podcast story. Some favorites:

I also love ones that are more focused on teaching you something (rather than telling you a story), but are still engaging programs, like…

And last but not least, I often defer to my dad’s favorite show when I need some humor to distract me: Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me.

AUDIOBOOKS?

Okay so I had to include this, because it would seem logical that if I love podcasts, and reading, I would also love audiobooks. But for some reason, no matter how hard I try, I can NOT seem to get into them. I have successfully made it through probably five audiobooks in my lifetime, which is not for lack of trying. (My dad has an incredible list of hundreds of audiobooks that he has listened to, organized alphabetically, that puts me to shame.)

Anyway, I think some people do like running while listening to audiobooks, because it’s something to engage your mind on the trail. So I found some lists on the internet that seemed helpful. Who knows, maybe some day I will discover a latent love for audiobooks…

12 Audiobooks for Runners (these all sound awesome)

Read While You Run

Listening to Audiobooks While You Do Something Else is the Ultimate in Multitasking

 

Tips for becoming a runner, from a former non-runner

In news that makes my soul very happy, my mom has started running! And so have two of my very favorite friends who are also baby mamas (thus making the accomplishment of running even more amazing since they are raising children at the same time).

Now, I realize that running isn’t for everyone. But it has done such wonders for my life that I feel like I want to convince everyone who ever lived to become a runner. Having trouble sleeping? Try running. Want to lose weight? Try running. Feeling sad about life? Try running. Need to feel powerful or motivated? Try running. Need some alone time? Try going for a run.

Now, I realize this is obnoxious, so I keep it to myself. In fact, I almost never talk about running unless someone brings it up first. (But if they do, I usually can’t shut up about it.) I remember exactly how it felt to be a non-runner, and see people I knew going for an effortless three mile run in the morning. They were lean and muscular and also very zen about the world. And they made it look so easy! I was an unhealthy, slightly sedentary college student, with my longest daily exercise being a 15 minute bike ride to campus. Running even one mile was like torture.

But fast forward to today, and I have done one marathon (whoa), quite a few half marathons, and lots of little races. I also run three miles a day regularly. As a result, I feel happier, healthier, better at sleeping, better at eating, better at life in general. And I want everyone to have this feeling! But it’s a huge uphill climb to go from being a non-runner to a runner.

(As a side note, the word “runner” is loaded and in my head people take it way too seriously. I think you’re a runner if you sometimes choose to go for a run. Or when you decide you want to be a runner. But it took me a long time to be comfortable calling myself that.)

As a result of my unrealistic desire to turn everyone into a runner, I’ve decided to share some tips about what helps me keep running. While I’m no expert, I’ve been running for seven years now, which, at the age of 29, is 25% of my life. Thus, I’ve accumulated a few ideas for how to go from running-is-miserable-torture to running-is-freedom.

These tips are in no particular order of helpfulness, and may not work for everyone. But they work for me!

Tips for Becoming a Runner

Tip #1: Read inspirational stuff on the internet.

Blogs help motivate me to do lots of things. I have a ridiculously long blogroll that I read each week. And while reading about running doesn’t make you actually go out and do it, I find that it helps me when I’m wavering between “I am really exhausted and would much rather lay around watching Game of Thrones” and “Maybe I should just get up and go for a run.” Fortunately there are so many inspirational things written about running on the interwebs! Here a just a few of my favorites:

Blogs

Articles

Boards

Like these ones on running and hiking and yogis and self improvement and happiness.

{photo credit}

Inspiration for the weekend.

Go running

I have the picture above as my computer desktop. It’s so hard to get motivated to run when it’s this freaking cold. So I’m doing all I can to inspire myself. Here’s some more inspiration that I’ve found lately:

The winter abundance bowl from My New Roots. Beautiful recipe that I make so frequently.

Advice to us all: Stop reading this blog post and go do stuff.

The truth is that everyone can do yoga.

The banjo player I am currently obsessed with.

A new favorite recipe blog (aka food porn).

Countdown until spring.

Teacher books I want:

And last but not least, my newest resource for teaching inspiration. This book seriously got me motivated to change how I structure my classroom to make it more full of wonder and curiosity. And it’s free to download! Cultivating Joy & Wonder: Educating for Sustainability in Early Childhood through Nature, Food and Community

Half marathon training – a printable plan

This past year I ran my first marathon, which was both awesome and awful. Miles 21-25 were pretty miserable. (The proverbial hitting of the wall is a real thing.) But mostly it was awesome.

Training for the marathon, on the other hand, sometimes felt more awful than awesome. I am pretty motivated by achieving goals. [Okay that is an understatement – I am ridiculously motivated by goals. I make to-do lists daily, and get unnatural pleasure out of crossing off the little boxes when I am done.] So marathon training was the perfect way for me to keep up with running. But it also me feel like my whole life was taken over by running. Here’s how a typical weekend looked:

  1. Friday night go to bed early in order to wake up for running.
  2. Saturday morning spend one to four hours running.
  3. Saturday afternoon spend several hours recovering from running.
  4. Saturday night fall asleep early from exhaustion, due to previous running.
  5. Sunday try to cram in everything you couldn’t do earlier in the weekend, due to all that running.
All the time with the running!
Fortunately someone invented the idea of running half the distance of a marathon, and this idea fits into my life much more easily. Having a half marathon training plan forces me to run regularly (and not just wussy 15 minute runs after work where all I think about is what I’m going to have for dinner). The long runs are reasonable distances (at most ten miles, which takes me a little over 90 minutes). And it still gives me a goal to be motivated by.

All that explanation is leading me to my newest creation! Enter cute printable half marathon training plan. My obsession with Pinterest and TeachersPayTeachers means I have tons of cute fonts, and I wanted to create a plan that I could print out, put on my fridge, and cross off when I’m done. (It’s like a huge to-do list just for running!). So, here it is! I hope you can use it! Just click on the image to download.

[Note: This training plan is for someone who has been running somewhat regularly for maybe a year? Something like that. I wouldn’t use it if you are just beginning to run. There are lots of good ones out there, including the one I’ve used in the past. Also, I put a vague “cross train” on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I like to do yoga, biking, or rock climbing on these days, but everyone has their preferred method of cross-training.]

Post-run yoga cooldown

Full disclosure – this post-run yoga cooldown was not my idea; it was stolen directly from Pinterest. [My Pinterest linked it back to this blog, although I don’t think it originated there.] But I really like it! I’m trying to get more yoga into my life on a daily basis. I think it’s unrealistic that I’ll get to a yoga class more than once a week (even though I now live three blocks away from a yoga studio – teaching doesn’t leave me much energy or time during the week), but I always carve out time for running. This would be a good way to get in both…

Why I run, again

Whenever I tell someone that I like to run long distances [I don’t like calling myself a “long distance runner,” even after completing a marathon – I think I reserve that title for ultra runners or triathletes or people who are much more hard core], I usually get one of two reactions:

  1. “Me too! When is your next race? I just did my first half marathon!” or some other excited, I-run-too type of response.
           or…
  2. “That’s insane. I could never do that. Yuck. That sounds completely miserable.”
There’s usually never anything in between those two! Sometimes I feel like I have both of those reactions, though, inside my own brain, when I think about stepping out for a run in the morning. So it was nice to read this post from one of the inspirational blogs I’m currently obsessed with, A Life Less Bullshit. The post was called Why I Run. Below sums up perfectly how I feel on any given day when deciding to go for a run:

There are the days you get blisters and the days you don’t, the days you sweat like crazy for no reason, the days you eat and hydrate properly and feel incredible, and the days when you’re 10 miles from home and your blood sugar is totally fucked up and all you want to do is collapse on the side of the road and hope someone comes to find you and give you a cookie. 

There are the days when every step feels like pure magic, the days when you cross a finish line in front of hundreds of people and shake your head, knowing you could have done better, and the days when you break your own personal record on a lonely bike path near your house in the early morning sunshine without a single witness, your eyes filling up with tears as you realize just how far you’ve come from the day you first laced up your running shoes and could barely make it around the block.
And then there are the most important days of all, the days where you understand that running is saving your life. Maybe not in a dramatic way where the alternative to life is death, but in a way where the alternative is just… existing, you know? Going through the motions of your life, but not really feeling anything at all. And believe me, there’s a big fucking difference between just existing and truly living.

The terrible and wonderful reasons why I run long distances

From the wonderful website The Oatmeal: The terrible and wonderful reasons why I run long distances. A hilarious and oh-so-accurate depiction of why running is simultaneously horrible and awesome. Especially the part about the bulging calves. Thanks to my friend Betsy for sending it along! Below is her (and my) favorite part:

How I convince myself to go running

So, I love running. But I usually don’t love running until I’m all done running for the day. Sometimes it can be really, really hard to make myself get out the door. I thought I would share a few things I do when I feel like any excuse will prevent me from going for a run…

  1. Picturing how I feel when I return from a run. The feeling of exhaustion and accomplishment that I know I’ll have when I come back is sometimes enough to get me moving.
  2. Saving up good podcasts for my run. You could do this with podcasts, music, or books on tape. Pick something that you love to listen to, and only let yourself listen to it while you work out. It’ll make exercise something you look forward to.
  3. Making a checklist. I use one of the calendars from this website to write down how much I want to run during the upcoming week. After I complete the run for that day, I check it off. It’s a little thing, but the satisfaction of having a full week of checks helps motivate me.
  4. Picking two days of the week where I don’t worry about exercise. Yes, I know, I should get 30 minutes of exercise every day. But my job is active enough that I don’t have to sit down constantly. So I give myself two days a week where I don’t worry about going for a run.

It also really helps to be working towards something like a half marathon or 10K. But I don’t like to always worry about a training schedule. Instead, I just want to run for the sake of running. Some days this works, but other days I need a little more motivation.

Training for a half marathon

So, I’ve decided to train for a half marathon! I’ve run two before, one in 2009 and one in 2010. I wanted to  make it an annual event, but unfortunately I didn’t get ready in time to run one in 2011. But I plan to do one this spring! There’s one in my area scheduled for Earth Day in April. I don’t have a time goal (I am way too slow of a runner for that). My goal is just to finish the race. Having the half marathon as a goal is a perfect way for me to make sure I keep up with running (or exercise of any kind).
not really how I look when I run
I wanted to share my training schedule, since I’ve used it before and found it easy to follow even with a busy work/life schedule. It only asks you to run three times a week, two half-hour runs during the week and one long run on the weekend. If you don’t have time to do a long run on a weekend (or if it’s too snowy outside — like it was for me this weekend), just move it to Monday or Tuesday.
When I first started training in 2009, I was a terrible, slow runner and really didn’t think I could ever run 13 miles…in a row…But the training schedule (from Jeff Galloway) I used was just enough to ease me into running longer and longer distances. For those that haven’t done much running at all, Jeff Galloway has a conditioning program to try for eight weeks before beginning half marathon training.

I’m currently in week six of the half marathon training schedule, which means that the reasonable-distance runs are out of the way (the longest one I have done so far is 6.5 miles). The next few weeks bring much longer ones. This is where really interesting podcasts come in handy… Anyway, without further ado, here is the schedule. Notice that it should be started 17 weeks before the race. For more information, see Jeff Galloway’s site.

Half Marathon Training Schedule for Runners and Walkers
Week
Monday
Tuesday TT
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday
Sunday
1
off
30 min run
off
25 min run
easy walk
off
3 miles
2
off
30 min run
off
30 min run
easy walk
off
4 miles
3
off
30 min run
off
30 min run
easy walk
off
5 miles
4
off
30 min run
off
30 min run
easy walk
off
2.5 miles
5
off
30 min run
off
30 min run
easy walk
off
6.5 miles
6
off
30 min run
off
30 min run
easy walk
off
3 miles with MM
7
off
30 min run
off
30 min run
easy walk
off
8 miles
8
off
30 min run
off
30 min run
easy walk
off
3 miles with MM
9
off
30 min run
off
30 min run
easy walk
off
9.5 miles
10
off
30 min run
off
30 min run
easy walk
off
4 miles
11
off
30 min run
off
30 min run
easy walk
off
11 miles
12
off
30 min run
off
30 min run
easy walk
off
4 miles with MM
13
off
30 min run
off
30 min run
easy walk
off
12.5 miles
14
off
30 min run
off
30 min run
easy walk
off
4 miles with MM
15
off
30 min run
off
30 min run
easy walk
off
14 miles
16
off
30 min run
off
30 min run
easy walk
off
5 miles
17
off
30 min run
off
30 min run
easy walk
off
Half Marathon Race
18
off
30 min run
off
30 min run
easy walk
off
5 miles
19
off
30 min run
off
30 min run
easy walk
off
6-8 miles