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Running Report: Five Things I’ve Learned as a Newbie Runner So Far…

By April 22, 2010Exercise, Running

I’ve been learning the RICE method of recovery for my ankle.

Despite my current appearance (slimmer), I’m not a long-time athlete or even active person. I never played high school sports, was never in youth-league sports and didn’t really grow up in what I would consider an active household. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve only seen my dad run once in my entire life, and it was when my brother took a wooden swing to the face on a playground. Needless to say I had very little knowledge knowledge outside of what I’d picked up from magazines and high school health class. I’d always maintained my weight through good diet and and an unfortunate high-stress lifestyle and for the most part it was relatively simple. But when I started working out and running just over a year ago, I learned a few things very quickly, especially when I started running in the hopes of completing my first 5k. When it comes to learning new things, I tend to do it in one or two ways. I either completely over-research and over-think the details or I recklessly throw myself into the wind and hope I don’t land wrong. With running it was the latter, and I’ve had to learn some hard lessons on the road to not only being able to run distance, but increase my stamina and endurance. I’m also dealing with my first injury, or rather re-injury to my left ankle. Nothing has been a show-stopper, but I’ve definitely incurred some setbacks and re-thinking when it comes to my technique. Here are a few of the big lessons I’ve learned:

1. Too Much, Too Fast, Too Soon: If you’ve never met me (and I need to do a vlog soon), I’m a lot of personalities, in a non-clinical way. I’ve got a little bit of everything and I want to do everything…usually simultaneously. This carried over to working out and subsequently running. Because of my schedule, I was trying to dramatically increase both my speed and distance at the same time, because in my head I thought I could run more in the relatively short time I have available. Needless to say it not only doesn’t work, but it puts too much on something that should be enjoyable (or at least tolerable). So I chose to focus on distance, and for the most part run till I was tired and no longer able to rebound with short stints of walking. Incrementally I’m increasing my distance more and more, and my lung and heart are learning to accomodate.

2. Stretching? What Stretching?: My running for the most part, unfortunately, has been in the gym on the treadmill. I’ll run for the duration of my workout while Neil is doing weights and when he’s done I jump off the treadmill and leave. Forgetting to stretch, or just not doing it has been a terrible mistake. Not only do I feel stiff and terrible in the morning, but my muscles don’t heal well, and my next run invariably suffers. I’m getting better, and I’m also doing more stretching during the day to stay loose. I do yoga in my office, and before bed. I make an extra effort to incorporate stretching while I clean the house. I’m seeing incremental improvements in my endurance and times. To me, stretching is just as important as the run itself.

My awesome Saucony ProGrid Guide 2’s

3. Equipment: I used to think “optimum” equipment meant replacing your mall-store shoes every so many miles. Boy was I wrong. For Valentine’s Day, Neil took me to get fitted for a pair of real running shoes. I got an awesome pair built and designed specifically for running and they have made a marked difference. Not only do I not have any more shin pain, but the cushion and fit has helped my stride and taken pressure off my previously-injured ankle. I thought such a venture would cost quite a bit more, but I didn’t spend any more than if I had gone to the mall, and I got a great pair of shoes tailored to my feet.

4. Hydration: For the first few months (ashamed to say it was up until a month ago) I was not hydrating properly. I would lug a huge water bottle on the treadmill and get mad when I was still dehydrated. I was trying to drink while running and it was messy and ineffective. Neil noticed my cotton mouth and asked what I was drinking during the day. Um…Diet Coke? I was drinking no water during the day, other than maybe a mouthful in passing a drinking fountain. I was dehydrated all day, before I even stepped on the treadmill. Problem seen, problem definitely fixed. I drink water throughout the day, at least two glasses while I’m at work. Sure, I’m in the restroom more, but I’m also no longer dehydrated on my runs.

5. Change it up: I realized quickly that I’m not a euphoric runner. I don’t see Jesus, I don’t have mental renaissances and for the most part I can barely focus on anything other than staying on my feet. Running for me is honestly boring, especially on a treadmill. Maybe that will change once I can go full out more often and not feel like I’m merely trying not to die, but for now it feels like a process and something to overcome. Rather than get frustrated that I’m not having “the experience” I’ve continued to look forward and run toward the goal of that feeling. To do this, I’ve started varying my speeds and breaking up the distance into smaller goals and milestones. It not only makes time go faster but builds a stronger cardio workout because I’m constantly challenging and recovering my heart rate.

Learning all these things has given me a better running experience over the past month, and I’m continually feeling more energetic and better recovered the day after. With more attention to what I do before and after the run, my runs are getting easier and more enjoyable. I’m finally able to vary my speed comfortably and enjoy running with other people at a pace where I can still hold a conversation! I’m still a complete newb but I’m building a knowledge bank and setting a course for better, more effective workouts every time.

Have you ever hit any roadblocks or learned some hard lessons on the road to reaching your fitness goal? Have a great method to share or have any suggestions on my continuing journey? I’d love to hear them!

A special thanks to Aurora at Dispatches From the Castle and Ashley at (Never)homemaker for providing great info and support!


  • I love your post, Jessica! You are totally right on the mark with all these points. You’ll find it gets easier and easier — and I wish you the best of luck!

  • Blake says:

    All I can add is listen to your body, if it tells you to stop, do it!. Pushing though a little bit of discomfort is fine, but don’t force yourself though pain. I have $25,000 of knee surgery to show for what happens when you don’t listen.