goals


It’s been a while since I did a running post, and I would love to find out how everyone is doing. I know a few of you are taking it pretty seriously, and a few are still thinking about it. I’ve been so impressed with the progress you’ve made, especially since you’ve started from the very beginning. Some of you had never run at all until a few months ago. I hope you’re beginning to understand the running addiction. I don’t know how many addictions could be called healthy, but running for sure is.

I’ve been gearing up to do a few races this year. I signed up to run a 10K in Massachusetts, with Elizasmom and her mom, and probably some other bloggers I’ve never met. That will be in the end of March. I get to visit my brother nungnung as well, and it will be my first time in New England. I’m hoping to run it in less than 50 minutes, but we’ll see.

I’m going to run the Indianapolis Mini-Marathon in May. It’s the biggest half marathon in the country, with 35,000 entrants. My cousin Liz and my aunt Barbara will be doing that one with me. I hope I can finish that in less than 2 hours. I finished my first half marathon in 1:47, but the first three miles were pretty steep downhill, so I’m sure I ran faster than I would on a flat course.

I’m also going to enter the Air Force marathon in September. I think my goal for that will be less than 4 hours, but again, we’ll see. I have no idea what it will be like to run 26.2 miles, so I’m pretty sure I’ll be happy if I cross the finish line.

I’m basing my goals on my recent running times, and on the times from races I ran before I was pregnant with Kiki, in 2005. The other day, I ran 3 miles in 26 minutes, which is better than my last 5K, even though I wasn’t racing. It probably made a difference that I was on a track, but it didn’t seem as hard as I thought it would be. Today, I ran 7 1/2 miles in blustery 35 mile an hour winds, and I finished in 1 hour and 13 minutes. I ran some hills, but the wind was really what made it hard. I thought I would get frostbite on my nose, since the wind-chill factor put it at about -5 degrees. I kept putting my mittens over my face until my nose and cheeks thawed. It was exciting. When I got home, I thought I would not be able to move the rest of the day, but now I feel fine.

So how’s your running? I’d love to hear any progress you’ve made, any races you’ve entered, any gear you’ve purchased, anything that makes you motivated, anything that you hate, anything. I’ve discovered that talking about running motivates me, whether the person I’m talking to loves running or hates it. I love running.

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As a rule, I’m not too big on New Year’s resolutions. For me, they’re much less effective than weekly or monthly goals. If I write down a few goals for one week, it’s not very likely that I won’t accomplish them, because the time commitment is one my brain can process without my circuits catching fire. If I ever do a long term goal, I have to break it down into many smaller, short term goals, or I will fizzle out in the first few days.

This year, though, I have come up with a few goals that seem appropriate for me for this year. Some of them are in the form of a contest, whether with other people, or just myself. I am of a competitive spirit, so this will be my motivation when doing something just for the sake of being a better person makes me want to sleep in.

1. I will run a marathon in 2008. I think the Air Force does one in September. I’m pretty sure there’s one in Columbus in October, and there are millions of other marathons to chose from. I’ve got one person who has agreed to train with me, and possibly another. I’m going to see Spirit of the Marathon to kick off my training. My goal is to finish it in 4 hours or less, but I won’t be sad if it takes me longer. It will be my first marathon.

2. I will see how many consecutive days I can go without purchasing or consuming any candy or processed sweets. This leaves the option of starting again and bettering my previous PR. I made the resolution to not eat any sweets in 2005, and I made it 5 whole days. With my new goal, I can do better than 5 days, and even if I break down and eat a box of Mike & Ikes, I can always start again the next day and do better. If I manage even to make my sugar consumption just a little more rare, I will count myself a success.

3. I will make my bed every day, even if it’s the last thing I do before getting in it at night. I dream of the day when I will be able to pay someone else to clean my house, but that day is not today.

4. I will not acquire any new hobbies or languages in 2008. I will not buy any new yarn, language books, or, dare I say it, cookbooks. But I will work on the hobbies I already have. I will practice the organ, finish my Greek, use the cookbooks I have to plan great weekly menus and actually cook as much as I can, finish the baby blankets for my cousins and the chenille washcloths that were supposed to get mailed with the soap, get my compost started, plant my garden, sew up the shirts I started, and the curtains, and the lambie suit for Kiki, and the list goes on.

Now I feel a little lightheaded. I need to go back and rework that last one so it’s in weekly, bite-sized pieces.

If you’re new here, you can read Step #1, Step #2, and Step #3.

Now that you’ve been running a few times, you know a little more about your body and what you can do. You know that you can make yourself do more than you thought you could a month ago, and you know that you like how it makes you feel. You can visualize yourself running and loving it. Now it’s time to have some fun.

I love running, but it can get pretty boring. In the mornings, I run starting at my house, and since I’m only running 15 minutes at a time this week, I can only go for 7 minutes before I have to turn around and head home. I don’t have more time, so I can’t get in the car and drive somewhere interesting. I save that for Saturdays, when I run a longer run. All week, I run my puny little runs thinking how fun it will be on Saturday, when I can go to a nearby park or forest. Sometimes I just run into the neighborhood just west of us, where there are “houses” that belong to families you would have to marry into to ever be able to live there, and the family you married into would have to be the Darcy family, because you would never be able to afford a house like that on the income of a mere mortal. I affectionately call that neighborhood “Darcyville.” There are black swans at one of the homes. I mean, they are at the lake.

Anyway, the weekday runs are the practice time. They’re sort of like those times tables you did in the third grade, the full page 1×1= 1×2= 1×3= etc., etc. You need to practice before you can do the really fun stuff. And you think of the fun stuff to keep you motivated to do the mundane stuff, or the painful stuff, or the butt-freezing stuff. I once asked my dad (an ultra-runner who does 50-milers in the summer) how he gets himself to run in the bitter cold of central Utah in the winter. He said, “I just think of all the fun things I’m going to be able to do in the summer.”

So this week, plan a fun run on the weekend that you can look forward to. If you live near the mountains, and they are not covered in snow, consider finding a trail to run on. Trail running is so very much better than road running, and you can run twice as far as you think you are able, because the ground is easier on your legs, the scenery is so pretty, and you can forget that you are running. I used to run on the Provo River Trail, which starts at Vivian Park and goes all the way to Utah Lake. I think it’s about 15 miles, so you can get a lot of variation by starting at a different point every week. It’s paved, so it’s not quite as nice as a dirt trail, but it’s still pretty. Here in Ohio, I’ve found a couple of trails that are fun.

You can also make different goals for your weekday runs. You may like to alternate hard days with easy days. For example, if your hard days are Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday, and you run for 10 minutes total on those days (maybe you run it in one shot, or maybe you alternate running at a moderate pace with walking), then on Tuesday and Friday, you could run an easy 5 minutes, really slowly, or even have a good long walk for your easy day. Sometimes it helps if you have some days when you can just run without thinking, and you know it’s not going to be hard, but you still need to do something.

So where are you going to run this week?

Next, Running Bonus Tip

You got some great new shoes, you made a goal and wrote it down, now it’s time to go running. You should be so excited! You will go running, and it will suck. You will hate every second of it, even if it’s only 30 seconds. You will feel like you’re wearing a lead sumo suit, and your feet will be so mad at you. Hopefully, your lungs will wake up and cry a little. You will question your sanity.

Then, you will stop, catch your breath, and yell into the sky. Yay! You ran for 30 seconds! Or 2 minutes! Yay, yay, yay! You will love yourself a little more for accomplishing a goal. You will be proud that you kept going for the full 30 seconds. You will suddenly feel elated and powerful. Then you will giggle a little that you’re so excited about running for half a minute. Then you will realize that your half a minute is in the past, and another half a minute of running is in your future. You are a runner.

You will want to try again. If you really think you can, go ahead, but don’t don’t don’t go crazy on the first day. Even if you are fit enough to walk 4 miles, running is something different. I believe that if you have a bad reaction in the hours or days following your first run, you won’t ever want to do it again. You might end up thinking that it would be bad for your knees because your knees were overused that first time. Or you might end up with really sore hamstrings, which is actually way more likely than sore knees. You need to be careful, and you need to respect your body, or it won’t want to do what you tell it to. But if you really start small and progress gradually, your body will be so happy.

Step #3: Go Run

Get your comfy running clothes on, and make sure you’re warm enough. (Karee, you know I’m not talking to you. In fact, I’m questioning our decision not to move to Arizona.) Make sure you have gloves and a hat, or at least something over your ears. When I was in my early 20’s, I ran with a folded up bandanna over my ears, like a sweat band. Kinda ghetto, but it worked. Lace up your shoes, go outside, and start walking. You should walk and get the blood flowing for 5-10 minutes as a warm up before you start your run. When you’re ready, get your stop watch, or pick a landmark to run to.

Please don’t try to do a full-out run. That’s for people in races. And mostly only the people who intend to win. I advocate a low shuffle at the beginning, where the main focus is forward motion, not speed. You might not get going any faster than your brisk walk, but that’s OK. It’s all about the motion, the adjustments your body needs to make, and the mental transition. Forget anything you’ve ever heard about how to run. Just let your body do what you did when you were 5. Run for your goal duration.

Slow down and walk some more, and be so happy that you ran! Think about how much you will love running, even though it was hard at first. When you’re done, do some mild stretching. Focus on your calves, hamstrings, and quadriceps. Stretching helps your muscles recover, so don’t skip it.

Write in your running log that you accomplished your goal. Do some stealth bragging during the day. “The sun was coming up right in the middle of my run this morning. It was glorious!” ” I stubbed my toe while I was running today.” “I’m sorry I missed your call, I must have been running.” “I’d love to meet you for lunch. I go running at 11:30, so I’ll bet there at 12:15.” Also, notice how much more cheerful you are after your run.

Next, Step #4: Mix it up
Running Bonus Tip

All right, you’ve all gone out and outfitted yourselves to run comfortably, right? You’ve got the shoes? If you haven’t, just bite the ugly-shoe bullet, and go do it! Then you can move on to the next step.

Step #2: Make a goal and write it down

You need to have a concrete goal, so that you can see and measure your progress, and thus feel the satisfaction of accomplishment. Your goal should be a running goal, not a weight-loss or dieting goal, or a physical appearance goal, or an anger-management goal, or a goal to begin recycling. It should be one that is within your abilities, but hard enough to make you work for it. And you must WRITE IT DOWN! The writing down seems dumb, but in 3 months, when you see how far you’ve come, and you can look back and tally up all the miles you’ve run, you will be so glad you kept track of your goals and accomplishments. It will be worth it. You will also have a handy record that can help you determine when it’s time to buy a new pair of shoes, since the average pair of running shoes lasts about 400-500 miles.

So here we go, beginning runners. If you can walk for 30 minutes at a brisk pace without falling over dead, you should be able to run for 2 minutes. Does that sound so stupid and tiny? It’s not. Running is hard at first, and you need to teach your body how to do it. If 2 minutes sounds intimidating, start with one, or even 30 seconds. You need to start with small distances, so your muscles can learn how it’s done, so your heart and lungs can learn how to cope, and so your mind can learn how to think while you’re running. If you do too much at the beginning, your whole system will overload, and you will never want to do it again. And you will have wasted $100 on those ugly shoes.

I guess we should also discuss what constitutes running. If you are moving forward, and at least one of your feet is always in contact with the ground, you are walking. If you are moving forward, and there are alternating moments when you have one foot on the ground, and then you’re airborne, you are running. It mattereth not how fast you are moving forward. Shuffling is fine, at least for the first few months. Your goal should not be to run fast, but to move forward and get your heart pumping more than it typically does while walking.

Your goal that you write down this week will be a weekly goal. Decide how many days this week you will run, and the duration of each run. You may wish to alternate days of running with days of some other activity, so your muscles can rest and repair themselves. You can tally your goal durations, so you have a total target duration to strive for. For example, my goal for this week is to run for 14 minutes for 6 days, and 28 minutes on the seventh day. I don’t have a rest day planned because I’m trying a new regimen of daily running that I don’t think I can explain and still sound rational. So my goal for the week is 112 total minutes of running. I currently run at a pace of about 11 minutes per mile, so I will have gone about 10 miles this week.

If you skip a day, or do something else, just cross out your running goal for the day and write in what you actually did. I usually keep a tab of running minutes/miles and walking minutes/miles. You can shuffle your days if you go off track, or you can just stay on schedule and not worry about the lost day. The most important thing in getting going is to not skip more than 2 days, and ideally, not more than one. That means that you should be running at least 4 times a week, if you really want to become a runner and enjoy your running.

If you run for your 2 minutes and find that you feel good enough to run 2 more, first walk for a few minutes, then run another 2. After my 2nd and 3rd babies were born, I got back into running very slowly, with 2 minute runs for the first week or so. During the second week, I would run for 2 minutes twice per workout, then the next week, 3 times. This approach may not work for you. You may find it easier to just increase the one run by a minute or two each week. Each time you increase, you will probably feel like it’s pretty hard, but by the time you get to 10 minutes, you will remember thinking how 2 minutes was hard, and you will feel so good about yourself. Then, when you can run for 2 hours, you will laugh at the thought of running for only 2 minutes.

Next, go see:
Step #3: Go Run
Step #4: Mix it up
Running Bonus Tip

By popular demand (OK, only one person has requested), I am going to do a series of posts that can help people start out running for recreation or exercise. I don’t want to overwhelm, because that inevitably leads to quitting. I also want to add this caveat: the only reason I think I’m qualified to issue this advice is because I’ve done it many times. That is, I’ve started running form the beginning. It’s easier every time, because I’m not learning new movements and I’ve got the muscle memory, but the fitness level part is lost if you stop for a long time, such as the requisite 9-18 months during and post-pregnancy.

So you can take my advice with a grain of salt. I love running. I believe that anyone can get to the point where they love it, but that point might not come for months. I encourage you to try it, and get to where you can run 3 miles in one go before you decide whether or not you love it. The first part always sucks, so don’t give up.

Step #1: Get the right clothes.

You will not go running ever again if the first time is so uncomfortable that you’re left with welts anywhere because of chafing, or if your feet hurt (or your knees or hips) from the wrong shoes, or if you feel like you can’t get used to the jostling. Here’s an email I once sent to someone who asked about what to wear while running:

I just think the biggest problem with running is that there are too many things that can be uncomfortable. If you can eliminate as many of those as possible, you’re more likely to continue, and to love it. So you NEED good shoes that fit right. If you are just starting, go to a running shoe store and get fitted. You should have running shoes that are about a full size larger than your dress shoe size. Also, shoes are so specialized that if you get your gait evaluated, you can get the right shoe for how your foot hits the ground, how heavy you are, etc. And you need comfortable clothes. Thrift stores have lots and lots of workout stuff, if you have the time to check them. I get my clothes from REI, Sierra Trading Post, and Road Runner Sports. They all have similar stuff, so I shop for sales.

Get some spandex. For me, there is nothing else to run in. Only the pants, though. I’m not so much into the leotard look. But tights or biking-type shorts (without the butt-padding) are the way to go. For these reasons:

1. They never ride up. I always feel sorry for those people who run in regular shorts, but they’re riding up the middle, so they have to do that side-stepping yank to get the shorts out.

2. If you get black ones, you can’t see if you’re sweaty. Another thing I don’t really like is seeing people who run that are all sweaty down the middle. On the shirt, that’s fine, but not on the lower half. It makes them look incontinent.

3. They’re oh-so-comfortable. Nothing flapping around, nothing pinching. I’m a little knock-kneed, so my knees bonk together. But with tights, they just slide past each other. It’s easier to stretch after a run, too.

4. In the winter, it’s really easy to layer if you have tights on the bottom. Just get some thicker tights one size bigger to put over them when it’s really cold.

5. They dry faster than cotton. So you don’t get the chills as bad after a cold run.

6. You get to show off your sexy legs, if you have them, and if you don’t, you get to proclaim that you don’t give a hoot what anyone else thinks about your legs.

7. No chafing. Cotton is the worst in this area, but with spandex, all your chafing woes are eliminated.

I also don’t wear cotton shirts for running because of the chafing and the wetness. I get the polyester and polypropylene running shirts. They have special seams so there are no raw edges against your skin, and they dry really fast. Some are mesh, so they help keep you cool in hot weather, while still covering the important stuff.

I think I got all the reasons. I have been wearing tights to run in since my freshman year in high school, when my mom made me a pair out of neon yellow fabric with neon green polka-dots. She sewed a hot-orange lightning bolt down the side of both calves. Those were awesome. I recommend you try them. I can’t even bear the thought of running in anything else.

And from another email regarding the jostling issue,

My trick for running, since sports bras do absolutely NOTHING for me, is to get a good quality underwire sports bra, like lunaire, in 34DDD or 36DD (a tiny bit too small helps), or even a regular but old underwire bra that’s comfortable, AND wear a speedo racing swimsuit over it.

It sounds ridiculous, but it works, and I don’t get my shoulders rubbed raw from the sawing, or any other bad chafing either. Although, when I go on long runs or more than 40 minutes, I also use an anti-chafing silicon roll-on in the high-friction areas. But the combination of sports bra and swimsuit really does minimize the bounce.

So is that enough to make you want to give up already? I suppose it’s OK to go running for the first few times in your regular walking clothes, but please just trust me, and get the right shoes first thing. Ask the salesperson lots of questions. Tell them where you plan to run, sidewalks, roads, trails, etc., and how long you will run at a time. If you’re just starting out, you will run about 2 minutes at a time, about 4 times a week. You will build up from there. And let me remind you, there is absolutely nothing shameful about running for 2 minutes, or even 30 seconds. At first, your bones and muscles will need to get used to it, and if you go out too hard at the beginning, pain and frustration will ensue.

For more on running:
Step #2: Make a goal and write it down
Step #3: Go Run
Step #4: Mix it up
Running Bonus Tip

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