I ran 100 miles in September.
Before July of this year, I couldn’t fathom this.
I barely ran over a mile without feeling miserable. I wanted to change that. I set a goal this year that I would run a 10K and I wanted to blow it out of the water. In August, I set the habit of running every day at least something. I leveled up my August 100K challenge to see if I could achieve more. I actually enjoy and look forward to running now. I learned 15 lessons so far along the way that I wanted to share below:
(1) Mental effort matters.
I ran my longest distance yet of 8 miles this past week. Sure my pace was A LOT slower than when I ran 4 miles a month ago. BUT it took the same amount of mental effort to run the 8 as it did my 4. My bar got raised of what I can achieve.
(2) Leave gas left in the tank.
This was counterintuitive to me at first. After running the 8 miles I was feeling great and tempted to go further. Coach warned me against that. It’s better to leave on a high note so then you’ll want to come back. This also prevents injury.
(3) Mindset for the long term.
When I used to run a mile or 2, it was always on and off. I would end in worse shape then I started. That’s why I couldn’t consistently show up. If you know you’re in it for the long haul, you’ll look at it differently and want to make it fun.
(4) Add in some variety.
Having been a swimmer since age 6, I always liked switching up my strokes to spruce up the swim. With running, you don’t go from stroke to stroke, but you can change your pace for bursts of time. The 1mi, 5K, and 10K paces are in your back pocket to use.
(5) Have constant check-ins.
“How are you feeling?” I keep asking myself this. It’s like being your own therapist. Constant self-awareness of how your body is doing is needed to prevent injury. You may have a plan in place for the run, but sometimes a detour is needed.
(6) Set a clear intention.
Just like how you would want to know whether the terrain will have rolling hills, let yourself plan for what’s ahead. Is it a fast run? Tempo slower run? Long run? Just a run? Set this at the start so you know how to visualize the motions before starting. This alleviates anxiety by having the certainty of the length and speed for the run. Become aware and control your spontaneous urges.
(7) Pre-hydration is as important as post-hydration.
Not that I’m a huge drinker, I had some smooth glasses of cab the day before my long run. I wasn’t proactive enough to make sure I was hydrated enough before my run. I did not like the odd cramping in my ankles. Stay hydrated always.
(8) Think relaxed arms and open hands.
While running, I thoughts primarily about my stride and tempo in the lower half of the body. Don’t forget about the rest. The machine all operates under the same roof. Don’t run with fists or allow your arms to be high up on your chest crossing. Make them propel you forward.
(9) Breathe through your nose.
I used to feel like a dog panting when I breathed through my mouth. Growing up as a swimmer, I thought this was the only option. Nasal breathing keeps our body balanced as opposed to mouth breathing. Sleep expert James Nestor explains how the nose filters, heats, and treats raw air. It can trigger different hormones to flood into our bodies. It lowers blood pressure, monitors heart rate, and helps store memories.
(10) Start off slower. End feeling stronger.
Being a sprinter, I always thought I needed to start my fastest at the beginning. That the momentum would carry me. False. It takes time for the body to adjust to running. The tank of energy immediately gets depleted. If I don’t start easily, I can’t progress to feeling stronger.
(11) Focus on effort and stride instead of distance or pace.
The numbers are trackable. The feelings are what allow you to show up again. It is all a mind game.
(12) Talk to Siri.
She can skip the song for you, so you don’t have to. Stay in the zone, so you don’t need to get your phone out.
(13) Stop stomping.
Imagine being like a ballerina, so you can feel lighter on your feet. This analogy makes the most sense for me because of the Russian ballet teacher who scolded me for being noisy. when. I. did point ballet as a teenager. Once you imagine it, you are more likely to make it happen. I learned this the hard way.
(14) Always stretch.
Even if it is only for a few minutes, it still counts, and it’s better than nothing.
(15) Heavy on the Ice.
Being worried about shin splints is scary. Take control of what you can control. Keep the momentum going by proactively icing any inflammation. Frozen broccoli and mangoes will suffice.
I’m not a professional runner by any means. Just along for the journey and I love learning new things. This is all an experiment. I am very new to this realm of fitness so if I am incorrect or you have more lessons to add please chime in.