Rules of Running for Non-Runners

Remember how Sarah talked me into doing Couch to 5K last spring?  Remember how I did it and then actually ran a 5k? Yeah, that was pretty big. So big that I thought, “I ran a 5K. I have reached my running pinnacle. Why on earth would I ever run more than this?” It was the pinnacle of running for a non-runner like myself.

Well . . .now, I’m running more than that. In fact, last week I did 8 miles. Next week I’m supposed to do 9.5 miles. In the middle March I’m going to go a full 13.1 miles, in public, with a whole bunch o’ strangers and maybe even get a (participation) medal.

How did this happen? Like it did for Megan, it just kind of happened.

We moved and now there is a beautiful running trail right behind my house. My new home also happens to be in a place where I know virtually no one and I can’t reasonably call anyone I love until 10 am because of the time difference. To top it off, my kids are early risers and the men in my house leave at 7:00 am. Little miss and I had to find something to do. So we ran. Then we ran farther and farther. Then it started getting easier. Then I thought, “Hey, maybe I can actually do this thing.”

Through the course of the last couple of months I have learned a few things. Things that have helped my body that is still working to shed another 50 pounds. I would like to share a couple of very unqualified rules on running for non-runners.

Running for Non-Runners

1.  The first 1.5 miles are rough. Like really rough. I still feel this way every day. Each time I head out, I think, “Maybe I shouldn’t do this. My body hurts, this is unnatural, and I hate it.” Once I excepted the fact that I was going to be uncomfortable for at least a mile, things got better. Now, by the time I hit 2 miles I’m in my groove. I’m breathing better and my body seems to have decided that I’m going to keep going whether it agrees or not. Now I’m to the point where I want to run at least 3-4 miles on a normal day because I know I’ll feel good at the end.

2. Ignore your pace. Not everyone will agree with this statement. If you have speed goals, by all means, keep track of your pace. However, if you are like me and you are just trying to make running happen, look for your own rhythm. As you continue, you’ll get faster. When I ran with the jogging stroller, my phone was mounted right where I could always see my pace. It was too much pressure! I worried that I was too slow. I constantly tried to run a negative split or maintain a certain pace. Once I let go of that (by putting my phone in my pocket), I found that my speed was much more natural and I enjoyed it a lot more.

3. Vary your route. If you always run the same route, the scenery will get boring and your body will get bored. Mix it up.

4. Keep your chin up. Mentally keep your chin up. You can do this. Physically keep it up and your form will be better. Stop looking at your phone, feet, stroller, or whatever. Enjoy what is around you. Be aware of your surrounding. It is safer, more relaxing, and a lot more fun.

5. Bring a buddy. Find a running buddy. This can be a friend, spouse, child, or simply a friend on the phone. I’ve found that my long runs are a lot easier if I have someone to chat with. On my last long run, I spent 3 miles talking to my friend Shannon. Not only did it take my mind off the mileage, it helped me maintain a reasonable pace so I wasn’t gasping for breath while talking. If anyone would like to sign up to be a phone buddy during my half, I’m taking volunteers.

6. Walk when your body needs it. I am a HUGE fan of the Jeff Galloway run/walk method. I find that I can go farther and I enjoy it more when I take walk breaks. My body feels better during and after my run. I’m not competing with anyone but myself so as long as I get the miles in, I’m happy.

7. Go hands free. My form is better when I’m not carrying something or fiddling with my phone. See #2 and #4. Plug that single head phone in and let your smart phone do what it is designed to do. I have Runkeeper set to give me my total time and distance at half mile intervals. I don’t have it tell me my pace (even though we all know I quickly calculate it when I hear easy even miles). It helps me be more aware of my surroundings as well.

8. Make a goal with consequences. For me, that was shelling out $100 bucks for a half marathon. Now I have to do it because I don’t want to tell Ben that I wasted the money. Do whatever works for you.

9. Realistically schedule it. I am not a morning person. I say I’ll get up and run a six but my body and brain aren’t really on board. Run when it works for you. Look at your schedule and find the right time. It might be during lunch or after work. Maybe it’s running around the park while your kid is at soccer practice. Find the time that WORKS and put it on the calendar.

10. Do it for you. That means doing it your own way at your own pace. You don’t have to run the same distance or pace as your spouse. Ben runs faster but I run farther. Accomplish YOUR goals. Do you want to be able to run a whole mile? Great! Are you like Erika and want to see how far you can run during an episode of Grey’s Anatomy? Perfect. Maybe you just want to be outside for 30 minutes a day. Do that. Figure out what you need and grab it. Whatever you do, just know that if you are running at all, then you, my friend, are a runner.

Now, I have a toddler to wrestle into a jogging stroller so she can yell at me for the next 45 minutes.

How I Became a Runner

That’s right people!  She’s back!  Hey Megan is back sharing her story on how a girl who got kicked out of dance class (Oh, keep reading.) became a runner.  Since she is one of the people that keeps Tracey on track (Get it? On track? Running?  Never mind, that was terrible.) we are so glad she is the running expert that she is.

How I Became A Runner

Let me be clear.  I never intended to be a runner.  I ended up being a runner.  In fact, I have only recently come to realize that I actually became a runner.  My neighbor just finished her first race–a Susan G. Komen 5k.  She had a whole tam running with her from her job…but not me.  Hmm…I’m not easily offended so as she was talking to me about her team, I chided her on  not asking me.  Her response was that I was a runner–and she wasn’t.  Ha!  So here I am officially labeled a runner.  But let me digress.  Like I was saying I NEVER intended to be a runner.

My Fitness Journey or “How I Became a Runner”

My journey starts with genetics to be honest.  My dad played basketball forever.  I mean forever.  He played pick up games at our church at least once a week for as long as I can remember.  Long after his peers had retired from church ball, he was still showing up.  I believe it was a pretty bad back injury that ultimately sidelined him–from basketball.  He still skis and goes to the gym.  My dad started the youth basketball league in my town and ran it–forever.  My mom…she supported my dad in his exercise efforts.  Not that she hasn’t tried some forms of exercise.  I believe she did line dancing for quite awhile and she takes walks either with or without grandkids.  My point is, I think I had a good example of an exerciser in my home.

So my first foray into athletics was dance.  A disaster for SOOOO many reasons.  But that actually ended quickly because, well…I got kicked out for “goofing around.”  I don’t remember this at all.  And I might have taken my little sister down with me, but she ended up going back to dance later without me.  Which was good–she has rhythm I most definitely do not.  (As was evident in every aerobics class I ever tried).  So then I was dutifully enrolled in BYBA (Belmont Youth Basketball Association) for how many years?  Awhile I guess.  Of course, I am not the “tall one” in my family and basketball wasn’t my thing, so my career ended early.  So when high school hit I played field hockey–mostly because I couldn’t get “cut” from the  team because no one did!  And incredibly, I wasn’t too bad.  It was my sport.  I really enjoyed playing it and I was good enough that my coach pulled me aside and told me to do track for the next two seasons so I would get hurt playing other sports (which I never would have made the team for anyway, but in my egocentric teenage mind that sounded better).  So I played field hockey through high school.  The college I went to DEFINITELY did not have field hockey–I’m not sure anyone there had even heard of field hockey. BUT, I was in Utah so I skied.

 A lot.

Maybe too much.  Maybe not.

I had fun which was reflected in my freshman grades…

I skied with my sister and my future brother in law.  I skied with friends I knew and new friends!  In the summer I mountain biked and hiked and went river rafting.  I had a lot of fun in college.  And I ran.  I started running just to get out of my apartment.  There was this great trail that led right up into the canyon.  At first I just ran a mile or two but eventually I ran up to 10 miles at a time.  I didn’t like the running part but it was something to do.

Now fast forward–I’m married and working.  Now is when I tried out the gym classes.  I didn’t kickboxing, yoga, some kind of weight class, aerobics (fail), step aerobics (epic fail), spin, you get the picture.  I dabbled in them all but I ended up becoming a yoga instructor.  Seriously.  I know I don’t believe it either.  I’m thinking I got talked into by the physical therapists at my work…

Anyway, that didn’t last long because right after my yoga training I got pregnant with twins.  So all forms of solo activities came to a screeching halt–and have essentially not yet resumed.  I honestly cannot remember if I did any organized form of exercise after my twins were born.  Neither my husband nor I can remember a whole lot of those first couple of years.

So lets just skip to after my fourth child was born.  I knew I was done being pregnant (mainly because we were/are having a REALLY hard time keeping track of number 3).  I wanted to “be healthy” but have a genetic predisposition to being unable to stop eating chocolate (thanks mom!).  So, I had a double stroller and I started running.  Yep, just like Forrest Gump.  My intent was to run until I had a enough time to do some other more enjoyable form of exercise.  Time is funny though…somehow no matter how old my kids get I still don’t have any–time.  Weird.  So, with my 30 minutes of free time each morning I load up a kid or two in my double jogger and hit the pavement.  All four of my kids have spent considerable time in that stroller with me huffing behind them.

And now I’m a runner.

 I have finished two Tough Mudder races (thanks Jeanene) and a sprint triathlon (thanks Krista) and a couple of 15K (thanks Bren!)  I almost exclusively train for these through running.  Because now that’s what I do.  Will I stop?  Probably not.  I like it now.  It’s cheap and I can do it anywhere. Running starts my day off.  I always run outside so I get some fresh air in the mix.  My fellow runners–whether intentional or not–always give a wave or head nod of camaraderie as we pass.  I’ll stick with it.


5K Training and My First 5K


5k trainingIt was an exciting weekend around our house. After completing months (and by this I mean multiple attempts over 4 years) I finished my 5K training and Ben, Sam and I completed our first “race”. Ben and Sam ran the Austin CASA Superhero 1K and I ran the 5K.  Despite her protests, our daughter sat in the stroller with the iPad.

Running a 5K is a huge accomplishment for me and something that I never thought I would be able to do. Earlier this summer I shared the things that I learned from Couch to 5K. Today, I thought I would share the things that I learned from my first 5K.

What I Learned from 5K Training and My First 5K


Prepare – I decided to use the Zen Labs 5K training program. That was my foundation.  I trained for months for this race. I started slow on the treadmill. When school started, I found a nice Kelty jogging stroller on Craigslist for $100. My 18 month old and I moved the training outside. I spent the next 5 weeks promising my daughter,  “We are almost to the slide. . . ” all while shoving cereal, fruit snacks, toys and the occasional pink doughnut at her to keep her appeased. Seriously, pink donuts. She’d probably run a marathon with my if I had a dozen.

To specifically train for this race,  I ran the route twice before the big day. I wanted to know what to expect. The first time, I ran it with my super fit friend Tracy. She gave me lots of tips and encouragement. The second time, I ran it on my own with Elly. It helped me feel comfortable until the week of the race when I found they had changed the course. Oh, well.

Commit – Besides training, for me the big push came when I actually picked a race and committed to it. I sealed the deal by getting my family involved.  Once I showed Sam the video for the “Batman Race” he was all in. There were points that I thought that maybe I’d just run the 1k so I made myself accountable and shared our goal with others. There is nothing like fear of looking like a big fat quitter to help you complete a goal. I had finished my 5K training so I was going to finish a 5K. We also took it one step further and made a goal to raise money for CASA.  Together, Sam and I raised $140.  Not too bad and we got a special running shirt. If you get people you love to donate money then you better follow through.

Get there early –  Ben and I can never agree on what time we need to arrive at places.  I like to be extra early, especially if it is something like a flight, meeting or race. Ben, not so much.  He doesn’t like to stand around.  We arrived 45 minutes before the start of the 1K.  This gave us plenty of time to find parking, walk to the starting area and check out all of the activities. We had time to take fun photos, soak up the atmosphere and find our photo spots. Plus, the excitement of seeing the other runners in costume helped Sam get even more excited for the race.  

Take a support group –  Along the course there were tons of people cheering and pushing you on.  Let’s face it, you can’t just walk past people cheering for you.  You have to use your “Speed Boost” as Sam calls it. Also, I mentioned before, getting my family involved made a big difference.  It was a great opportunity for us to do something together. I made a sign for Sam and Ben made one for me. Us girls had a great time waiting at the finish line for “Sam and Daddy.” Ben’s wait was a little more, er, challenging with two kids. But for all of the hassle (and the cracked iPad screen) that Ben put up with, it meant so much to see my sweet little family yelling and cheering for me as I came around to the finish line. A high-five from your 5 yr old is enough to push any mom past the finish line.

Find your speed – I did all of my outdoor 5K training (2 months) pushing Elly in the jogging stroller in the steamy Texas August/September heat. Not an easy task. I was really tempted to push her in the race simply because we had trained together and I thought it would be a fun thing to finish together.  And she’s kinda my crutch. Eventually, I realized that this race was for me.  It was my accomplishment and I wanted to do my best. By losing the extra weight pushed throughout my training – the toddler, the stroller and 30 lbs of Tracey – I was able to take SIX AND A HALF MINUTES off my fastest 5K training run.  I found myself naturally running faster than I anticipated.  I took walk times where I needed to and ran when I was ready. Ben couldn’t believe my progress and how quickly I made it to the finish line. My time was official time was even 30 seconds faster than what Runkeeper on my phone said. I didn’t come in last. There were over 200 people behind me. I’m still feeling mighty proud of that.

Have Fun – As terrifying as it was to put my 5K training to the test, it was a fantastic experience. I cannot say enough about the CASA Superhero Run. I would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone.  The energy of the crowd was infectious. The costumes added an air of fun to the entire event.  Finally, sharing the event with my family was a great way for us to do something together.  

So if you are debating taking the 5K training plunge, I say, “Go for it.” One of my sisters has started 5K training and my other sister is contemplating it along with it my mom.  Who knew that we would be a family of “runners”?


5 Things I Learned from Couch to 5K

You might remember a couple of months ago when Sarah shared our Running Lists for Slowpokes. Remember how she talked me into doing Couch to 5K (C25K)?  What she didn’t tell you is that I have started that darn program at least 5 times.  Seriously, 5 times. The first time was back in 2009 when my little guy was just a year old.  I actually made it through week 6. Then I quit.

But guess who didn’t quit this time? Guess who is running (aka jogging – slowly) 30+ minutes at a time. Who is averaging about 2.5 miles per run? Oh, that would be me. Now, I just need to conquer that last .6 miles and a 5K will be in my grasp. (Oh, and transitioning from the treadmill to outside. That would be good too.) So in honor of my C25K graduation, I thought I would share a couple of things that I’ve learned during the process.

Things I learned from Couch to 5K

1. Running is hard. I still kinda hate it. I know people say it gets easier. They also say there is some mythical beast called the “Runner’s High”. Yeah, haven’t met it yet. I will say I love the results. I love the feeling of accomplishment that I feel when I’m done. The the weight that I’ve lost is amazing. Most of all, I love the time it gives me to burn off anxiety, stress, energy or the Peanut Butter Faux Oreos that I just can’t seem to resist. It makes me a better mother and wife. I’m more centered, more calm and I feel accomplished. While I’m never excited to actually run, I’m always excited for the experience.

2. You have to find your own pace. I think the biggest mistake I made in all of my other attempts was trying to go too fast too soon. About a year ago I picked up the book Run Your Butt Off!.  One of the things that it emphasizes is that when you are starting off, don’t run any faster than you can walk. This made a huge difference for me. I slowed down and started concentrating on just lasting through all of my run segments. I have found that my speed has naturally increased along with my endurance.

3. Get the right shoes. Everyone says, “All you need is shoes to start running.”  While I agree with this, I can tell you there is a HUGE difference when a running specialist helps you pick out the right shoes. The shoes I ran the program in were some that I picked out on my own. I had been fitted back in 2009 so I knew that I pronate and that I need neutral shoes. They worked. As a reward for finishing, I went back to be fitted again for a new pair. My new shoes are fantastic. During my most recent fitting, I also learned that your running shoes should be one size bigger than your normal size to allow for swelling in your feet. Also, don’t forget about good socks. Synthetic fabrics are better for wicking away moisture.  Moisture = blisters.

4. Find gear that will help you accomplish your goals. For me, it is all about technology, tracking and results. I use a Fitbit every day to help me track my level of activity. Ben also bought me a Bluetooth heart rate monitor that works with my phone. I love knowing how many calories I’m burning.  Finally, if you are running outside, find an app that works for you. I’m still trying to find my favorite. So far Runkeeper might be my favorite.

5. Have a goal. Throughout this process my overall goal was to finish the program. Just finish it. That’s it.

I also had daily goals Couch to 5K Goals.

    • Finish all of the intervals.
    • Jog for 5 minutes straight.
    • 10 minutes jogging.
    • Go an entire mile without walking.
    • Jog 2 miles.

You see where I’m going.

Now, my overall goal is for my family to run a race. In September, Austin has a Superhero Run. It benefits CASA, an organization that advocates for abused or neglected children. There is a 1K for kids and a 5K for adults. This morning we started a training program for our 5 yr old to run the 1K. Ben left us in the dust as he pushed our daughter in the stroller. My little running partner did 1.25 miles of 3 minutes walk/run intervals. I was so proud. Proud of him, proud of myself, and proud of the fact that my little family is focusing on building fitness habits that will benefit us for years to come.

The Running Playlist for Slowpokes

IMG_4241IMG_4471IMG_6368 IMG_6779

Everybody’s running these days, right? (No, not you? Don’t feel bad. I don’t want to be running all that much, if it helps.) And there’s like, a race for everything. The whole Slap Me in the Face with Colored Chalk race, the Electrocute Me in Water After I Submit Myself to Frostbite race, and the I’ll Run All Night Long Because I’m a Norse God race – not to mention the Force Feed Myself A Ton of Hotdogs (or Krispy Kremes!) Whilst Trying to Run races.

Sarcasm aside, kudos to you if those are your thing. Me, well, I’m just trying to turn the dial from “sedentary” to “light physical activity”, and the less foofarah the better, I say. Luckily, my friend Lori sensed that I, like she, both hated running and felt a need to actually do it. A few weeks ago she approached me about doing the “Couch to 5k” app regimen with her, trading off on watching each other’s children. How could I say no? But oh, does misery love company, and it wasn’t too long before Tracey was roped in, too, so that now we all — in very theoretical theory — should be ready to run a 5k sometime this summer. Theoretically.

And hey, I’m doing it. I’m sorry if you were looking for some huge affirmation of, “Oh mylanta, people! Running is the most fulfilling thing and I now run barefoot and I will run 9 marathons in my life and endorphins!” I’m just not that person. Certainly not yet anyway. Again, props to you if you are. Sincerely. But I will say this: I’m glad I’m doing it. I do it in the mornings, and I do feel better throughout the day. I like having that time to myself, and I like getting outside more. I like the idea of making my body stronger and more capable, and I like setting goals to try new things with that stronger, more capable body. I like the simplicity of it, too; just get up, go.

But perhaps my favorite part is the music.

The music gives me more of a mood boost than the running, I think, and I love being able to have a solid half hour to just listen. I love moving steadily along with the beat, feeling connected to it. And I love bobbing my head without reservation when Jesse McCartney comes on, because how can you not?

So, here are a few standouts from my current playlist that I would certainly recommend you incorporate into yours. The full list is pictured above, and Tracey has graciously shared her sweet tunes as well, pictured below. (And Erika has a new phone, so she doesn’t have much to share right now, but she wants you to know that you can bet JT is on there, and for good reason.)

Go Do – Jonsi

I’ve mentioned this song on the blog before, but I’ll be darned if it wasn’t tailor-made for running. Even a grouchy runner like me lifts up her head, puts a spring in her step, and pushes herself just a little further. If you add no other, add this one.

One Day Like This – Elbow

A wake-you-up yet still relaxing song that has one of those fist-pumping builds at the end to make you feel like you’re running dramatically in slow motion. (Or just slowly in slow motion. That would be me. Have I made that clear yet?)

Learnalilgivinanlovin – Gotye

It doesn’t get more upbeat than this. Push play, and feel the energy coursing from your headphones, delivered with a smile. You’re welcome.

Hey Ya! – The Blanks

Note the artist here, because this is most certainly a cover. And don’t get me wrong, the original is great to run to — see Tracey’s below for proof — but I am sort of hilariously obsessed with low-key music. In fact, you’ll see that much of the stuff I run to most humans would never consider workout-worthy. However, I really find that having soothing music interspersed with the more high energy stuff helps me feel more like I’m doing something relaxing and fun rather than grueling. So, if that sounds like something that appeals to you, check out this (mostly) acapella cover from The Blanks.

As promised, here’s Tracey’s current running playlist. My faves? Wouldn’t It Be Nice  so awesome! — and If I Can’t Have You. Plus, while texting back and forth about this, we agreed that The Killers’ All These Things That I Have Done is a gem for running (it’s on her other workout playlist, in fact,) but really, most Killers stuff is a gem for anything.

Uninvited comment from Tracey:  Please take note of Grace Potter’s “Something That I Want” at the very end of my playlist.  Yes, that is the song from Tangled.  Lemme tell ya, this is the only way I get through the last 2 minutes and 43 seconds of my run. Because something that I want, at that point, is to be DONE.  It is happy, upbeat and inspiring.  I dare you not to feel motivated listening to this song.  Tracey out. 

IMG_1209 IMG_3278 IMG_3447

So yes, there should be more than enough there for the fellow fitness novices out there who are looking to expand their music library. What are some tunes that get you motivated to move? Any that are super embarrassing? Do tell.