Training for a Half Marathon!

They say being held accountable makes things happen, so here I am, making it official: I will be running the Busan Half Marathon on October 5, 2014!

Or let’s put it this way: at the very least, if all goes wrong, I am running the Busan 10K on October 5th, 2014!

For whatever reason, a half marathon lately hasn’t felt like A Big Deal as much as it quite honestly should. I should be terrified or something but for whatever reason, I’m not. I’m going for the low and slow, don’t get hurt, try your best school of philosophy. I’m channeling my fave blogger, Elise (see her race reports from her two half marathons here and here) who trained but didn’t panic for one, and didn’t train as much for the second.

Barring injuries (which despite my seemingly casual attitude, I am planning to be very careful about), the very worst that happens is that I don’t finish the race, but probably run further than I ever have before and am in better shape than I am currently. The best case is that I achieve an exciting goal, run further than I ever have before and am in better shape than I am currently. I believe this is what they call a win/win.

I’ve said it before, but this is why I love goal setting so much. It inspires me to try things I’ve never tried before and push myself further. If it hadn’t been patiently sitting on my goals list for so long, slowly convincing me that running a half marathon is just as approachable as having a beautiful picnic, I’m sure I’d be panicking a lot more right now. But as it is? I’m fine, even though my app is currently angry at me for officially starting my training so late to the game.

I’m using the Coach program on my favourite app Nike+ to train for this half. It’s prescribing me about 4-5 runs a week until the race, plus a rest day and a cross training day. It’s a lot, of course, but I’m just trying my best. Already it’s been such a great motivation to know I have an official race to train for – much more so than a vague goal like “get in shape” or “run further”.

I think I’m feeling calm because I know exactly what I have to do and exactly how much time I have to do it in. Specificity rules. Also, I’m not hanging expectations on this race – ideally, I just want to finish. Stay tuned and wish me luck!

22 Before 22: Run a Race

Before..

This is a great example of why I set goals for myself.

I’m a person who likes my routines. I am not super fond of changes to my routines, or disruptions in my life. These things are inevitable, of course, and I deal with them as they come, but I sometimes think I’d be quite content to just have my steady, reliable schedule to follow. At the same time though, I have lots of dreams and plans and things I want to accomplish! I have lots of fun activities in mind that I hope to one day do. I don’t want to miss out on anything, and I want to experience my life to the fullest. Conundrum.

That’s where goals come in. They remind me of all the fun things I hope to do, and motivate me to disrupt my regular patterns in ways that ultimately make me very happy. Yes, sometimes I grumble, or am annoyed by the hassle that these activities bring, but in the end I am always so excited that I signed myself up and followed through. For Diner en Blanc, the annoyances were things like running countless errands in order to collect all the white materials we needed. For The Colour Run, my major grumble was having to wake up at 6:30AM to do it! (and don’t worry, every time I caught myself getting annoyed about that, I just thought “get over yourself, Stephanie!”) I was also a little stressed about keeping up with my friends, and sometimes cursed myself (usually while on a run) for having initiated the registration of this event with my friends.

In the end, though, it was wonderful. I got to spend time with friends I don’t see nearly often enough, and we spent the whole 5K gossiping and catching up. Because I participated, I ran my first “race” since high school. I laughed and laughed and laughed, especially at the DIY colour powder station where we practically rolled around on the ground and put orange handprints on each other’s faces. They played music, everyone was smiling, we were running right by the water for most of it, and it was the most beautiful fall day. Even taking the metro home, full of coloured people, was fun and special.

They say that you can buy happiness if you buy experiences instead of stuff. I tend to agree. This past year I’ve bought myself a few really wonderful experiences (this race, Diner en Blanc, tickets to Wicked) and they have been so rewarding. The memories are really special, and I feel like I bonded with my friends through them. As I’m pondering my goals for next year, I think I’m going to try to more actively incorporate that idea of buying experiences into my life.

If you ever get the chance to do The Colour Run (or one of the similar races), I recommend it! It’s a great way to get used to a busy, hectic race environment with lots of people, but it’s also fun and laid back, not really a high pressure situation. Plus it’s awesome to run through clouds of coloured powder (doesn’t affect your lungs as you might think) and end up looking like a rainbow.

PS. I didn’t take these photos (because I was running!). So thanks, V, for being our personal photographer! And thanks to Amanda for letting me use them. 

Running Routines

2012 was the year that I got back into running. I haven’t run so much, or so consistently since I was on the cross-country running team in Grade 10. I’m happy that I’ve kept it up, I’m happy that it’s getting easier, and I’m happy (most of all) that I’m enjoying it.

When I wrote about running here, I had really only just started up a running routine. Happily, all of what I wrote then still holds true for me today. I still adore my Nike+ GPS app and my bright turquoise shoes. I still focus mainly on just getting out the door and not pushing too hard. I still try to run variations on the same route.

But I’ve picked up some more motivational tips along the way! Running has spread like a virus within my friend group (a few of us recently did The Colour Run together!) which means there’s a wealth of information about running at my fingertips. I’ve now created a running routine that works for me, and I’ve been sticking to it. I’ll share what works for me, but keep in mind that everyone is motivated differently, and not everything that works for me may work for you! That being said, maybe you’ll see something here that hits home – I certainly did, since most of these things I learned from someone else.

Schedule: I run (at least) twice a week, just like I blog (at least) twice a week. In fact, I do both activities on the same day. For the past two semesters, I’ve had fairly open mornings on Mondays and Wednesdays, so I tend to run and blog during those mornings. I find it much easier to declare which specific days and during what time periods I’ll run than to decide to just “try and run twice a week”. By having an “implementation intention”, it makes it easy and automatic: for me, if it is Monday or Wednesday morning, I am going running.

My other rule is that I have to leave the house by 11:50AM to go running, otherwise I don’t have enough time to run, shower, get ready and leave for class on time. I find this strategy of singling out the last possible time I could leave to be extremely helpful, because it doesn’t let me make excuses or get flustered. I know that if I leave at that time, I will still have lots of time, so I don’t get stressed out during my run (when I want my mind to be relaxed, not worrying!). Also, having that time in mind makes planning my morning easier. There is no second-guessing or thinking involved, I just know I have to organize myself well enough to be able to go running by 11:50. Having a window of time I could go running in works better for me than having a specific time that I have to leave.

Running in the morning for me is a no-brainer. I know that later on in the day I’m usually busier, not to mention I don’t want to change my clothes, or disrupt my day. If I run in the morning, it’s out of the way and taken care of.

My advice would be to take a good look at your schedule, and work backwards. Choose a window of time that you could go running in, whether that be in the morning or evening, then schedule it in.

Fuel: Mornings that I run, I’ll do one of three things.

1. Not eat anything (rarely)

2. Drink a smoothie (only if I have enough time to eat/partially digest it before I run, otherwise it sloshes around in my stomach and makes me nauseous)

3. Drink a cup of caffeinated tea (usually chai) and eat a Clif bar.

I typically go with option #3, though today I chose option #2. Clif bars are expensive, however, and are a meal replacement. I am planning to make my own energy bars (from nuts, dates, etc), which cost far less! The meal replacement part doesn’t worry me as much, because I’m not eating it as a snack – it truly is replacing my breakfast.

When I get back from running I’m usually not very hungry. I haven’t investigated post-run protein shakes, but for the past few weeks I’ve been drinking a big glass of cold water with 1 tbsp of chia seeds. I don’t love the texture, but I’m glad to be working them into my diet as they are very healthy. I’m still working out the best fuel system for me. I have friends who don’t eat anything, or who eat four hours before they run, so there are a lot of options. I think that deciding what/if to eat is a process of trial-and-error, of experimenting and then listening to your body. I still haven’t perfected what I eat pre-run, but my current systems are working out pretty well.

Thoughts: Running has become a bit of a “flow” activity for me, which is wonderful. I don’t think about much while I’m out there, except avoiding pedestrians, focusing on the next stretch, or a few mantras. When I think back to my runs, sometimes I’m surprised at how empty my mind was – I really do just focus on the next micro-goal, one at a time. My “mantras” when I run are more like prompts, and most of them I pirated from Born to Run. The main one is “easy, smooth, light, fast”, which is self-explanatory but so, so great. Those words really direct the way I try to run. The second is “tall”, as in stand up straight, don’t hunch. Others include “cycle your legs underneath you”, “small steps”, and “check your form”. These thoughts pop into my mind quite a bit throughout the time I’m running, and they really help me focus on my gait. I would recommend choosing any one thought/mantra (you can get them from anywhere!) and thinking about it while you run. It’s interesting to me how quickly these thoughts became automatic for me, and now they just pop up spontaneously.

“Gear”: This one’s in quotation marks because I don’t have much of it at all, nor do I think I really need all that much. Until I’m running half marathons, I think for the most part my regular old track pants and gym t-shirts will do me just fine. The two exceptions to this are my sports bra and my running shoes. I recently bought this bra, which cost me an arm and a leg, but I don’t regret it one bit. It’s comfortable, and doesn’t dig in. There isn’t too much elastic. It’s supportive without being constricting. My last sports bra was made entirely of elastic, and always felt like it was constricting my breathing (granted, that could have been all in my head, but it also left scary marks on my sides). This one’s a dream! As I’ve mentioned before, I have the New Balance Minimus Zero shoes. They are great, but I definitely have to pay attention to my form and posture, and not let myself just bang down hills. There’s no real cushioning, so I have to be very careful. Yes, sometimes I wish I had more fancy Lululemon shirts, but the truth is that wearing those doesn’t make you a runner. You’ve got to put in the work, and the work can be done wearing pretty much anything at all.

Goals: I love goals. They are so great for boosting my focus and motivation. My main goal this year was to be able to run 10K. I’ve been slowly (very slowly) working towards it, a little at a time. When I set that goal, I wasn’t even running at all, but now I’ve gotten up to 8.35K and I’m very proud. I still have a couple months to go before 2013, and I have no doubt I’ll reach it. Setting a broad goal for the year is better for me than setting goals for each week. Some weeks I’m very tired, and only want to do a short loop before stopping. Other weeks, I’m ready for a challenge. Having a very broad goal gives me freedom from week-to-week, which stops me from getting too discouraged!

My second goal was to run a race! This one was very effective in keeping me going when September rolled around and I didn’t feel like running. I chose a fun 5K for my first race, but nonetheless I was doing it with 3 friends that I didn’t want to look silly in front of! So I practiced, and kept running, and kept practicing. I didn’t want to be too slow or out of shape to keep up, and it was very good motivation! (Because of this practice, I was actually able to keep up during the race, and keep up my running into the fall).

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I’m happy to report that because of all of these small changes, I’m actually enjoying the process of running. I don’t necessarily love it while I’m out there, sometimes it hurts and it’s always pretty hard. But I always find myself smiling – yes, smiling –  at some point during my run. Sometimes the right song comes on and the wind blows and I just feel great, and I smile. That usually happens for at least a couple seconds, even if the rest of the time is a slog. In any case, running is a great activity because it’s fresh air, exercise, goals, “runner’s high”, people-watching. Plus, it is a huge confidence booster to see yourself slowly improve. I’m hoping to keep up my running practice during the winter, but I might need a bit more gear for that! We’ll see.

Do you have any running tips for me? I’d love to hear them! Do let me know what works for you.