Wednesday, April 18, 2012

What I've Learned from Running

Lately, it seems like I am encountering people from different areas of my life who are starting to get into running and are training for races.

It's made me think back on everything I've learned about running.  I trained for my first 5k back in 2005, and went on to run my first 1/2 marathon in June of 2006, and my first full in October of 2006.  In the last 6-7 years of running, I've learned a lot - most through trial and error, and from reading Hal Higdon's book about how to train for a marathon (which I still use as a reference). 

Here are some of the things I've learned over the years:
  • Cotton is your enemy and body glide is your friend.  I used to wear cotton socks and sports bras.  All I will say is - ouch.  When I was training for my 2006 marathon, I had horrible chafing - except I didn't know what it was.  I met this guy at a running store (who turned out to be a total a-hole), but one good thing that came of it was that he told me about body glide.  And by the way, the guys in my office had a FIELD DAY when I innocently came to work the next day and told them I had learned all about body glide from my date.  Trust me, it was a G-rated date, and body glide sounds more, ahem, scandalous than it really is - it's basically a stick of vaseline.  And it's something every runner should own and apply liberally, in my opinion!  That guy also taught me to buy socks made from synthetic material. 
  • Follow a training plan.  Besides my 5k, I've never made up my own training plan.  Unless you are at an advanced level, there is no reason not to rely on the great training plans out there, from Hal Hidgon, to Jeff Galloway, there are so many options to choose from.  I always hung the training plan grid in my cube at work for visible motivation.  These days, I have relinquished control and I just rely on whatever my coaches have in mind each week.  I was totally skeptical last year, but am a full believer in their approach to training now, and I have let go of needing to know exactly what I will be doing every week for the 18 weeks of marathon training.
  • Pickles are never a good pre-run snack.  This is a lesson I have had to learn multiple times.  I have definitely learned what my body can and can't handle before a run.  Pickles?  Not a good idea. At all! Take my word on this one.  My go to snack is toast with peanut butter - that's also my pre-long run and pre-race meal.  I also drink coffee before my long run, but I can not have orange juice or anything fruity/acidic (not even jam on my toast).   
  • Hydration is really important.  Another tip I picked up from that running store guy was that if you are running for more than an hour, you most likely need to drink something besides water as you need something to replace the electrolytes you are burning.  I was struggling with horrible nausea when I trained for my first marathon until I learned about the importance of gatorade.  I don't follow that as closely anymore because I think my body is more efficient, so unless it's really hot, I only carry gatorade if I am running for more than 90 minutes.
  • It's so mental.  I can't over-emphasize this enough.  For me, it's about 80% mental, 20% physical.  Yes, you have to be in shape, but more than anything your mind has to be in shape.  The good thing is that the discipline I've developed, thanks to running, has spilled over to other areas of my life - like CFA studying. 
The last thing I will say is that while I get runners highs, for the most part, my satisfaction comes from finishing a hard workout or a race, and the camaraderie I have with other runners.  I think you have to stick with it and get to a certain level of fitness before it becomes enjoyable, but that time will come if you are willing to put up with some discomfort along the way.

What lessons have you learned along the way while pursuing a physical activity or sport?

25 comments:

CharisFaith said...

I 100% agree with everything!!! The mental vs physical is so true, I actually explained that to someone just last week.

I think you have to find your pace, and find what you can do. I love races like this past Saturday, where you see all different people all getting out and being active!!!

Happy Trails :)

abbi said...

The mental part is what has kept me going and wanting more and more in this whole running thing. Once you figure out that part and overcome it, it can be applied to all other sorts of areas in your life!

Nilsa @ SoMi Speaks said...

Love this post, Lisa! I echo every point you've made! Whenever someone mentions to me they *might* train for a marathon, I remind them that they have the physical fitness level to do it ... they just have to want to do it ... and that distance running really has a huge mental component to it.

Kelly (She Wears a Red Sox Cap) said...

Very interesting post and another reason while I will never be a long distance runner, my body hates gatorade haha. I definitely think running is a very mental game, my "good runs" vs. "bad runs" are generally when I am in it or not in it mentally.

Carolina John said...

We're at that age now where even the hard party people want to start taking better care of themselves and start running. It's nice to get the respect that comes from them asking for your advice.

J said...

I hate to admit that i still wear cotton all the time! In some cases it does bother me but in others it doesn't. I have learned that some days you just have to remember to take it on mile at a time. And enjoy each run!

imlivinginadream said...

I think it's so great how passionate you are about running. I sincerely wish I was a motivated enough person to keep at a fitness/sport activity regularly, but as of right now I'm just not. I love going to fitness classes though but with school and a part-time job with random hours, it's hard to keep a schedule with it. I would say though that as a not-super-fitness person, my biggest lesson has been to eat light but well before heading into a work-out. And never have a coffee before a class, either. That just doesn't go over well!

missris said...

Oh my goodness YES I agree 100% with this post! I've also learned everything here (replace pickles with yogurt) and usually the hard way! I would say that while I do get a runner's high from time to time and that I do enjoy running overall, sometimes a single run can really suck. Sometimes several in a row aren't very fun. You just have to keep going and it'll all be worth it in the end!!

Marlys said...

I think you could write a book about running after reading your post! It was very inspirational!

Nora said...

Is it wrong that I laughed re: pickles & pre run snack? =)

And yes, running is very, very mental.

Amy --- Just A Titch said...

This post is so inspiring! I'm finding that even though I'm still a "baby" runner, I'm learning lots. I made my first training plan yesterday, but I basically just combined two of Hal Higdon's (one for a 10K and one for a half) and added in yoga (I know my IT band gets grumpy without it). It's great that there are so many resources AND inspiring runners like you for those of us just starting!

Kyria @ Travel Spot said...

I think that you are right on with many of these. Especially your last point. I think the mental part is the hardest part to get used to. It's about discipline and hard work and getting out there when you don't WANT to, not when your body doesn't want to, but your mind doesn't want to.

I laughed at a couple of these. Pickles!? I had a jar of pickles one night and had a hard time running the NEXT day. I was SO dehydrated! The same goes for anything overly salty; my tongue feels like a dry sponge. That is different for each person though and requires a LOT of trial and error, as does the hydration thing.

As for the body glide/butt paste/ Vaseline etc, I have never used it (knock on wood!) and I still wear cotton socks (and undies!) But for sure I need to have a non-cotton shirt if I am going for a long (read: sweaty) run.

Caroline said...

Running is sooo mental! You're right. As for gatorade, the only time I actually drank it during a run was at the marathon because it was so hot I knew I needed it and forced it down (I really don't like gatorade). But I should probably look into something else that might have similar benefits.

Stephany said...

I have not figured out the mental game with running. I guess my mind is weak, ha. It's tough, so I give anyone who can do it props.

Anais said...

All great tips! I always find it eye-opening to sometime pause and think of how far we've come, whether it be running or somtehing else. I remember Olle used to run with one of the timers he used at his lab - it was huge and chunky! lol :)

Abby said...

I totally agree with it being mental. When I start focusing on how tired I am, how hot I am, and how badly I want to be done -- it's not a pleasant run. When I say "Okay, get to the next tree." or just focus on the beauty around me -- totally different!

I still run with cotton socks and cotton sports bras 60% of the time. Probably why I literally have a wound on my bra line!

My biggest challenge with running with my stomach - and have to plan. If I eat bad food even the DAY before a run, I guarentee I will be very sick. So spontaneous runs are not in my cards.

Jolene - EverydayFoodie said...

The biggest lesson I have learned is to rest when something doesn't feel right.

Alli said...

You seriously amaze me with your commitment to running. So awesome!

Cherry Blossoms said...

Love body glide and your tip about needing gatorade if running for me than a hr I couldn't agree more! I remember when I was training for my half and I felt so sick after my 8 mile run that I practically passed out. ugh..

I def need to get back on the running wagon. I really would like to do another half.

jillconyers said...

Hi from a new reader! I'm not sure how many clicks or where I started before ending up here :)

Great post. What I have learned just recently, in fact, don't deny yourself the joy that is finishing. I'm working so hard on not putting 100% into my time/pace. That way of thinking will almost guarantee disappointment.

[Fitness, Health and Happiness]

Raquelita said...

Great post! And I completely agree with the mental > physical aspects of running. I wish I didn't still psyche myself out sometimes, but I have to admit that I do.

Erin said...

I love this! I've been so discouraged lately, because I couldn't run in my 5k or 10k due to extenuating circumstances...and my half marathon draws ever closer!!!

Body Glide does sound scandalous - but I will definitely check into it! My longest run so far is 7 miles, so I'm pretty sure I'll bee needing it when I get a little higher.

Jess said...

I bought synthetic socks and bras before I started running, on the advice of the store dude. And I've never had any chafing or blisters. Such a huge thing.

I followed the training plans so much, and it's probably the only reason I was able to run the ten miler.

Bacon is not a good pre run food. Or anything fatty. I learned that one early on. Hydrating has been my biggest physical struggle, because I always feel sloshy if I drink too much, but can't run if I don't drink enough. I figure I'll get better with time.

And then mental thing? Yeah. For me it's mental, always.

Amber (Girl with the red hair) said...

Oh man, I ran my first half in a cotton sports bra - BIG mistake!!! I definitely would never make that mistake again! Haha.

These are great tips. I 100% agree on the mental thing. You just need to tell yourself you're going to do it and DO IT!

Becky said...

"Cotton is your enemy and body glide is your friend." HAHA! I want you to somehow work this into the name of a post...just because.

I learned about cotton - you need something that wicks away the moisture - from Girl Scouts and hiking - and since my mom's such an avid hiker she swears by body glide too!