When I first started running I thought that all I had to do was put on my running shoes & put one foot in front of the other. While that may work for the occasional or casual runner, that doesn’t work for the one (ahem, me) that thinks she can take on the world of running. I love a challenge and happen to be a very goal-oriented person, so it only stands to reason that I am always looking for a race to train for and possibly set a new PR (personal record). But it isn’t that simple, or it isn’t for me. Everyone is different and finds different things that work for them. The following list is a list of 10 things that I have found that make me a better runner.
1. Patience. I like to set goals, but once I set those goals, I want to meet them now. We all know that is not how it works. Reaching goals takes time, well-thought-out steps and perseverance. I like to write out my training plan on a calendar so I can see what I have coming up, and more importantly, see the progress I have made.
2. Listening to my body. I grew up listening to my dad, a cyclist & former runner, say “No pain, no gain!”. While it is true that there are times you have to push through, there are other times when you should not. The trick is knowing the difference. I would love to say that I know the difference now, but I think it truly depends on the situation. Missing a run or workout is not going to make or break my race. Missing a rest day or not listening to my body and taking that rest when I need it, just might if I ignore my body long enough. It is much better to arrive at the starting line undertrained, than overtrained and possibly injured.
3. Running Friends. My friends that I have met through MIT are priceless motivators. When it is pouring down rain or –5 degrees with 30mph winds, they are the reason I go run. Misery loves company. Yes, I may be a little sick in the head, but who better to be sick with than other runners, right?
4. Hydration. Of course most runners know to hydrate during their run, but hydration is important all of the time. I normally drink 80-100oz of water/day, but I try to increase that a little on the days leading up to a long run or race, especially if the weather is particularly hot. I don’t drink Gatorade, but do drink Nuun hydration in the warmer weather.
5. The ability to learn from past mistakes. They say that you learn something new every day, right? I log all of my training on Daily Mile, which is a website that is sort of like a Facebook for runners/athletes. Not only do I input my miles/workouts, but I write a short blurb about how the run/workout went. Should I encounter any issues, I can use this to look back to see what may have changed or led to the problem. Not only can I track what I do, but I have met so many inspiring runners & athletes and can follow their training, too! It also serves as a wonderful place to pick the brains of those much more experienced in hopes of improving training or answering questions.
6. Max Sports Medicine. Dr. Bright & his amazing team of professionals are the reason that I am running today. I got myself injured by training too hard and had to learn the hard way. By following the guidelines set out by Max Sports Medicine, I have been able to keep myself relatively injury-free while training smartly.
7. MIT aka. Marathoners in Training. This kind of goes along with Max Sports Medicine, as that is how I found out about MIT. Not only is MIT where I meet all kinds of running friends, but the training plans & experience of all of the coaches in the group are priceless. MIT is where I learned how to properly train for a marathon and/or half marathon. I learned that not every run should be run at or faster than race pace. Apparently running your 20 mile run at the pace you want to run your marathon at is a bad choice. Wish I would have known that prior to my stress fracture. This goes back to learning from past mistakes.
8. Properly fueling my body. This has taken much trial and error. The error is not pretty, so I will spare you. There is a delicate balance for me in what I can eat before & during my runs. Then, once I think I am in the clear, I have to eat after my run, too. Some people think I am nuts, as that is all they want to do after a long run. I have no appetite after a long run, making it tough to eat, but refueling within 30-60 minutes after is imperative. My muscles need to replenish their stores and the best way to do this is by eating something with a 4:1 ratio of carbs:protein. It doesn’t stop there. Breakfast follows about an hour later, as does food the rest of the day. There have been too many times where I haven’t properly refueled and have really felt horrible for the remainder of the day.
9. Good running shoes. Do I like spending over $100 for each pair of running shoes I buy? No. Do I like being able to run pain-free? Yes. Having the proper running shoes for me is the key.
10. My family. Last, but certainly not least, if it wasn’t for my family’s support, I couldn’t spend the time I do on running & training. THANK YOU!!
***I am not a medical professional, nor do I play one on TV. Please take care to get the okay from your doctor before starting any exercise program.