How I Learned To Get Off My Arse and Love Running

Bee's Sneakers

The running shoes that guided me through my first 5K and many others. Enjoy retirement, smelly Zoom Vomero+ 4s! (Photo: Bee)

17 months ago, my sister bought me the sneakers pictured above as an early birthday gift. This all stemmed from a conversation we had about how I always wanted to run the CBCF Run for the Cure and tried to learn to run but never quite got past a couple of tries. She thought it might have been the shoes, so she treated me to those pricey Zoom Vomeros.

I took them for a trial 1K run in a subdivision near my place during an unusually warm April afternoon…and thought I was going to die. I wasn’t sure what possessed me to agree to this commitment: I was never considered athletic or even remotely coordinated. I was the classic Last Kid Picked On The Team and never played sports in high school or college. I even have a distinct memory of one of the snobby girls in 9th Grade making fun of how I ran around the bases in softball during phys ed. So knowing all of this, how did I ever expect to run a 5K?

17 months later, with a number of 5Ks under my belt, I am aiming for my first 10K. 2010 Bee’s head just exploded after reading that.

With the Terry Fox Run coming up this Sunday across Canada (shameless plug to sponsor me can be found here), I thought I’d share with you, dear readers, some advice on how I got over that hump and turned those best intentions into action and water blisters. These tips may not be for everyone, but they worked for me. And if they work for even one of you, then my purpose for this post will have been fulfilled. Just don’t blame me for your occasional spending sprees on cute workout gear.

First and foremost, have a goal. An extremely modest goal. Set yourself up for success and start small. Maybe it’s a 5K fun run in your city, or the 1K portion of the fun run. Maybe you want to build on a time goal – to run for 10 minutes straight, no breaks. The important thing is to just have a goal you can aim for and easily accomplish. Seriously, you can do this.

Make a plan, set a schedule and stick with it. My mistake in the past was running without a plan, and if you know me at all this makes absolutely no sense. I like to be organized and know what to expect. Now I know that the interwebs are full of Couch-to-5K plans like this one, but my gamechanger was the Nike + iPod app. When you join Nike + online (it’s free, but you’ll need to buy the sensor for your shoe and own a Nano/Touch/iPhone), you can activate a Learn to Run coaching program which tells you how long and how far to run each day. After your run, your distance and pacing info can be uploaded online for you to track your progress. The ability to see these metrics is a huge motivator for me, mostly because I’m a nerd.

You could also get a Garmin, but they can be pricey. You could also track your own progress with a stopwatch and a spreadsheet. But if you have an iPhone, I recommend downloading the Nike + GPS app. It’s five bucks, you don’t need a sensor in your shoe and you can run in your New Balance shoes. And it maps out your run. Fun! Geeky!

Yeah, about shoes…for the love of all things sacred and holy, buy the best running shoes you can afford. They don’t have to be the most expensive shoes in the store, but they should be suitable for your activity (no cross trainers!) and your gait (I’m not even going to bother explaining pronation. I’ll leave it to the experts.) Avoid the big box stores and stick with a specialty store like the Running Room – at least for the first time you buy running shoes – so you can get a recommendation on the type of shoe that’s right for you. Try on several pairs and test run them around the store. Don’t be shy – they expect you to do that.

If you have to go the big box route, do your research (Running Room and Nike, for example, have “shoe finder” functions on their respective websites) and bring a friend who runs and has been through the shoe-buying-song-and-dance a few times. Be sure to budget for socks, too. Splurge on the anti-friction variety to minimize blisters. You won’t regret it.

Now, how long should you run in those new shoes? There is one school of thought that says they should be changed every six months. Look, I have two kids that are constantly wearing out/outgrowing shoes and I can barely afford that replacement schedule. Personally, I like the mileage rule: 350 to 550 miles, or 500 to 800 kilometres (this is when logging your mileage comes in handy). That said, you may wish to replace them sooner. I replaced my Zoom Vomeros after 400+ kilometres of running, walking and casual wear when Running Room had an end-of-summer sale. It took walking with one new shoe on my left foot and one old shoe on my right foot to realize I had made the right decision.

Other signs you need new runners: you can twist the shoe around at the midsole, or you’re feeling pain or discomfort. Listen to your feet and take care of them – they’re kind of important in this running thing.

Wear comfortable clothing. No need to go on a Lululemon spree. Yet. Start with whatever is suitable for the season and expand your wardrobe as you progress. I started running in spring, so I ran in cotton yoga pants, a cotton-blend Lulu yoga bra and a short sleeved Dri-fit tee. By the end of May, I…was…dying. So I rewarded my attainment of the 3K mark by investing in a good running bra (a MUST) and some Adidas capris. Moisture-wicking fabric is my favorite, but go with what you prefer and don’t spend a fortune. Watch for sales, especially at the end of seasons. Remember as well that layering is your friend: I recommend a light hoodie that you can wrap around your waist for those cool morning runs (once I get going, I strip. You read it here first.)

Make friends with water. During your learn-to-run journey, you’re going to find yourself in an area without water fountains, you’re going to be parched and you’re going to wish you had a water bottle nearby. Take the plunge now and invest in a water bottle holder for your waist. Or do what I did and take a sick day in July because you had a raging dehydration-induced headache.

Run outside. Personally, I think treadmills are ass. But fortunately, I have the advantage of living in a city with a fabulous trail system. If you are equally blessed, use it and discover a path or two that you love to help you reach your goal. If you start to lose interest, try a different trail or neighbourhood. And don’t be afraid to run in the rain – it’s fun and amazingly liberating.

Share your progress. Runners are an extremely supportive bunch and will cheer you every step of the way. As the Ladies… can attest, I post my progress on Facebook and not a status update goes by unnoticed or unacknowledged. I have to admit the social-media-channeled support has helped me through the tough days when I have been completely unmotivated. If I don’t run – despite the fact that I am doing this for me - I feel I’m letting my friends down.

Tracking the progress of my friends across the country is also a source of motivation and inspiration. I mean, seriously, I used to booze it up with these folks and now they’re training for half-marathons! I’m in awe.

Make an ass-kicking playlist. Running without music is akin to torture, amirite? I know there are a number of runners who prefer to hear the sound of their feet hitting the pavement and shun the iPod. But I run for enjoyment and to escape (from housework), so I don’t hit the trails without my earbuds. I keep three playlists and rotate them so I don’t tire of the same tunes, which vary from ear-splitting metal to alternative to hip hop to Gaga (don’t judge!) Here’s a sample of some of my favorite running songs:

  • Metric “Help I’m Alive”
  • Arcade FIre “Ready To Start”
  • Eminem “Lose Yourself” (an obvious one)
  • Beastie Boys featuring Nas “Too Many Rappers”
  • Lenny Kravitz “Always On The Run” (heh)
  • R.E.M. “Finest Worksong”(has to be the horn mix from Eponymous)

And this one, my current “powersong” on my Nike + app. For the record, I don’t condone drinking and driving, but I would still give anything to have this driver pick me up in his sweet ass ride:

So that’s what worked for me, and I still can’t believe how much I love running. It’s a fantastic de-stressor for me – in fact, I get damn grouchy when I can’t get out for a run. I even have this little dream of running the 5K at Yankee Stadium some day. A few other ballparks do this as well for various charities, which once got me thinking: wouldn’t it be great to do fun runs in every MLB ballpark possible? Sounds like I need to revisit my first piece of advice: have a goal.

What helped you get over your running hurdle? Got any good tunes to recommend? Have I convinced you to take this madness up? Tear it up in the comments.

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