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Top Ten: Becoming a Better Runner

November 10, 2009
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Most Tuesdays I share with you 10 things that are going on in my world. Most Tuesdays theses 10 things are pretty random and don’t really go together. Most Tuesdays are easy-blogging and I don’t really have to commit too much, admit too much, or even transmit too much. Today is Tuesday, but it’s not like this.

Today I wanted to talk about my Getting Back on Track. I touched on it last week and promised more info to come, and here I am, just now getting to it.

Of course, this actually worked out for the best because my mind set has changed a bit on the whole “Getting Your Glow Back on Track” thing.

Don’t get me wrong- I want to stop over indulging [did you see my mention of bbq kettle chips yesterday] and I want to keep putting good stuff in my body and tackling some challenges to make me stronger and healthier and to be honest, shed more weight [more on THAT desire to come]. But more than anything else, I want to become a better runner. I want to be able to run an entire 5K without ever stopping once, not even to sip my water. I want to be stronger and better conditioned. I want to improve on my 5K time and be able to eventually move past the 5K onto a longer race. This will all happen with time, I know. And I do not want to rush this experience.

The truth is I love every run, even when I don’t always think I do. I am thankful for what my body can do. And I am thankful for every mile I log and every finish line I cross. I am thankful for my legs, and my heart. I love running. [who would have thought?]

Sunday afternoon, on my drive back from Boston, I started thinking about my “getting back on track” and why I wanted to do so. I want to have a healthy body. I want the scale to keep reading lower numbers. I want to feel good about myself. I want to continue to feel HAPPY every day. But mostly, I wanted to “get back on track” to improve my running. After that realization, my list was formed:

Top Ten Basics to Refocus on to Become a Better Runner

1. Nutrition and Tracking Food– Michelle recently completed her first tri, and during the recap she shared something her friend and co-tri-star, Madi, said; “I no longer eat because I want to lose weight. I eat to fuel for my exercise“.

This is where I NEED my focus to be right now.
Honestly, I want to continue to lose weight, as mentioned above. Since I started my “healthier heather journey” I’ve lost 24 pounds. [so close to an even 25- you know that’s driving me nuts, right?] But I also know that if I continue to pour everything I’ve got into my running and exercise, that the pounds will keep shedding. How do I know this? Because not long ago I had reached my first weight loss goal- 20 pounds- and decided to put the scale away until after my first 5K. And when I took that scale out again, it said I had lost 4 more pounds. Maybe it’s mental- but tracking my food to see how much I can eat to lose weight does not make me very excited. Tracking my food to make sure I’m getting the RIGHT stuff in my body to fuel me for my best performance- not just on race days, but perhaps even more importantly, in my training- THAT get’s me excited.

As I mentioned before, I recently noticed a decrease in meat in my diet, and I have started tracking my meals (again) at sparkpeople.com in order to make sure I’m getting enough protein.

Also- I’ve read a bunch of different suggestions for “runners diets”- each suggesting what percentages of carbs/protein/fats a runner should be focusing their meals on. I haven’t committed to any of these numbers, but I am following the suggested guidelines that my “spark nutritional page” has set for me based on my activity level, weight, & desired future loss. For now that means: Calories 1410-1760, carbs 187g-270g, fat 37g-65g, and protein 60g-145g.
I don’t freak out if I am a little over or a little under some days, but these are just goals for me to shoot for. Also, I make sure that on days my exercise is really increased [like my 10 mile interval day] that I properly fuel before and after my activity, even if it means more calories.

I am going to track my food every day for the rest of November to make sure I am getting the proper amounts of protein my body needs.

2. Get better rest – I am doing much better the past few weeks on this, but I need to continue to make getting a proper amount of sleep a priority. Especially now that it is getting dark before I even leave the office, and I definitely need to do my weekday outdoor runs in the mornings. I am aiming at being in bed at 10:00 PM every night but Thursday, which I will go to bed at 11:00 PM.

Why Thursdays? Fridays are “casual” at work so I tend to take a lot less time to get ready, and also, I watch Private Practice Thursday nights at 10:00. Yes. I did just set my sleeping schedule depending on ABC. Way to go, Heather.

I am going to aim to get 8 hours of sleep every night for the rest of November to make sure I am properly rested to face my day, my work load, and my training.

3. Cross Training – I’ve been reading a lot about the benefits of cross training for runners. I’ve faced a few challenges with cross training the past few months. First off, as mentioned above, I love running- so I really don’t mind if every cardio activity I put into my week is on the trail. But I know I need to mix it up. Secondly, a lot of people have suggested spinning- but to be perfectly candid- I am terrified of spinning. This is something I am trying to work on, as I know it really can’t be that bad. And I know I need to mix it up. A lot of times I am just fearful of trying something new, but this is something I’ve been trying to work on since July, and I think I am going to put this to good use this month.

I am going to participate in at least eight cardio activities other than running throughout the rest of November to help me find my cross-training-soul-mate-activity.

4. Train Smart – Mostly for me, training smart is about listening to my body. Especially taking time off when my body tells me to rest. This is something every runner needs to be reminded at one point or another: TAKE THE TIME TO REST. You’ll come back stronger and improve your distance or speed if you do.

Also- I read this today on a running website; “Identify your personal mental barriers and then train through them.” This is something I am definitely going to make sure to focus on. I want to break through the walls that my brain tries to build around me 🙂

I am going to spend a few minutes each evening for the rest of November journaling about my workouts, what I feel like my body is saying to me, and what my mental barriers might be.

5. Balance & Flexibility – Since I first started running, I’ve seen such a huge improvement in my flexibility. In my post-workout stretches, I can reach farther and hold each stretch longer. Just as my running has made me more flexible, I think my becoming more flexible will help improve my running.

I also really want to improve my balance. I have been wanting to try some serious yoga for a while now. And by serious I mean, more than what I’m doing, I guess. I have never taken a yoga class or followed any kind of instructor, podcast, television, dvd or otherwise. The only yoga I’ve done are things I’ve tried a time or two on my own from magazines or online yoga pose guides [and lots of “desk yoga” at work]. I’m definitely on the look out for some ways to get more yoga into my life. Do you runners have any suggestions?

I am going to try to practice yoga with some sort of instruction at least 3 times during the rest of November.

6. Core Work – This is simple: I’ve read it 100 times in the past few weeks- having a strong core is crucial to becoming a better runner. And I have definitely been slacking at the core work.

I am going to do 2 days of core work each week for the rest of November.

7. Running Out Doors – I’ve mentioned before about Ange’s Winter Challenge, Project Snow. Being outside in the cold does not always sound like fun. Exercising in the cold very rarely sounds like fun. But I’m hoping that as I continue to brave winter weather, I will come to have a love for it. And I know that if I continue to condition myself to running in cooler weather, I will become a better runner because of it.

I am going to run outside at least three times each week for the rest of November, in proper gear and attitude 😉

8. Hydrating – This is something I know is important, not just because everyone else says so- but because I’ve experienced the difference in my running while well hydrated and while dehydrated. And I’m not just talking before races, but before every run. And not just an hour before the run, either. I want to be well hydrated ALL THE TIME so that I am properly hydrated for my training and my racing (even when I’m only racing myself). Also- staying hydrated is good for your body and your skin! I’m so down for healthy skin 🙂

I am going to drink at least 64 ounces of water each day for the rest of November, plus morning and evening tea, and water during workouts.

9. Warm Up & Cool Down – I need to make sure I am making time for my entire work out- THIS IS A MUST. Sometimes, I feel like I’m so pressed for time that I rush into my running without properly warming up which can definitely lead to injury. Sometimes, I feel like I’m so pressed for time that I rush back home from my running without properly cooling down and stretching, which can also lead to injury. The last thing I want to have to deal with is injury!

I need to remember that it is better to properly warm up and cool down and shorten my full-force workout when I am restrained for time than to put my body in danger.

I am going to spend at least 5 minutes warming up and 10 minutes cooling down for each workout the rest of November.

10. Stay Motivated – There are so many reasons I am motivated to run, such as reading inspirational stories about other runners. Another way to stay motivated is to train with people. A team atmosphere can add to your motivation, help you to experience through firsthand interaction with other runners, and add a fun/social element to your running as well.

As silly as it sounds, I feel like I have a good team atmosphere here in the blog world. Even though I don’t physically run with any of you, I receive so much encouragement every day that I run. No matter if it’s good lucks and advice via twitter before a race, a congratulations or “good job” in a comment, or even (and a especially) the “get your butt outside and run! You will be happy you did!” texts that keep me accountable when I start to feel lazy.

As much as I love all the Internet interaction from my fellow running buddies all over the world, I still think I need to find someone to train with in person. I’ve already talked to someone who is active in a running group here in the area- but they take the winter off and only run together for the spring and fall. I know that come spring I will be joining them for some team-runs. But as for the winter, I am determined to find a running buddy or two. I haven’t decided exactly HOW I’m going to do this- but I will let you know when I have it figured out. And, of course, I am definitely up for suggestions.

Do you have any suggestions of how I can find a running buddy?
How about other ways to improve my running? What do you do to improve the quality of your running?

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Caitlin at Healthy Tipping Point permalink
    November 10, 2009 2:20 pm

    mica from micapie.com put an ad in craiglist and found someone really nice to run with!

  2. seesaraheat permalink
    November 10, 2009 2:24 pm

    Wow, it sounds like you have got it all figured out! I've been where you are before and all I can say is your attitude will make the biggest difference. I'm one of those people who can talk myself out of anything but when I turned that around, I went from walking to running a half marathon! That was in 2008.I've been toying with 5K's here and there this past year, but I'm hoping to get back into running again regularly and building back up to longer distances. Your post really helped me too, thanks 🙂

  3. Kristin permalink
    November 10, 2009 3:27 pm

    Hi Heather!Two things! 1. DO NOT be afraid of Spinning. When I took my first spinning class I was afraid. The instructor told me to try at least 3 classes before deciding if you like it or not. Now that I'm a spinning instructor I tell my participants try at lead 5 classes. The truth is you probaly won't like your first class. Another suggestion for spinning is to buy padded bike shorts or a gel seat (find at Target) it REALLY helps!Second if I lived near to you I'd be your running buddy! Great post today!

  4. r4i permalink
    November 10, 2009 11:35 pm

    Hi,In order to arrive to an adequate definition and tocome up with proper standards for Yoga Therapy, it is crucial at this early stage to properly address some delicateprofessional and ethical issues. At the same time it is important to educatethegeneralpublic about Yoga Therapy'sbenefits and careful use.so this article will really helpful to me..

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