Dear Runners: Advice Wanted

Hey folks! So yesterday was another baby-step 1 mile training run and BOY are my hamstrings tighter than a Spanx bodysuit after Thanksgiving Day dinner. Possible solution: lots of stretching in front of The Biggest Loser tonight. It does NOT help that much of my day has been sitting in meetings. It keeps my hammies and hips tight. I really want to get one of these chairs for the office, but I’m afraid people will thing I’m some kind of new age hippie who’s listening to Enya and snorting pachouli all day. πŸ˜‰

Anyhew… my runs–as short as they are–are really hit or miss in terms of whether they feel comfortable or not. I’m studying up (Chi Running, reading the training blogs of those who run) and stretching out (hot showers post-run, followed by stretching hips, legs and back), but I’m not noticing any huge sense of improvement and can’t seem to figure out what works for me.

Here is a list of my running-related challenges (what I’m trying to do to overcome them is written in parentheses and italics):

  • Boredom! I pack my iPod with great playlists, but sometimes purposefully plan to run on the gym’s treadmill during Jeopardy, so I have something else to keep my attention. Sometimes it’s really difficult to be attentive to my body and the feel of running and be at peace with that level of mindfulness. (Visualize the run prior to starting it, preparing myself for calm, changing up my playlist, people watching at the gym, Jeopardy!)
  • My stride isn’t light enough. I feel heavy-footed. (I try to be mindful of this and lighten my feet but then it feels like I’m running too fast.)
  • Tightness in hips and hamstrings (Basic stretches, hot showers)
  • Achilles tendinitis (Stretching, icing post-run, anti-inflammatories for longer runs or when I increase my mileage, limiting most runs to the more supportive surface of the treadmill, replacing sneakers and getting good orthodics every 4 months-ish)

I want to keep a running journal to help me notice trends so I can identify what works and what doesn’t, but I have no clue what to track. Sleep? Stress? Diet? Pre-race snack? Post-race snack?

Do you journal your runs? If so, what do you take notes on?

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9 responses to “Dear Runners: Advice Wanted

  1. 1. For boredom…Have you tried books on tape (only a novel you’re familiar with) sometimes the white noise is helpful, you can pick it up and not miss anything if you’re otherwise distracted, and sometimes the steady pacing/ gentle tone and timbre are relaxing….Also, I tend to be a very reflective person, so I use running as a time to let my mind wander…how did today go, was that e-mail too harsh…should I have fired Chris in Kohls or Target?…Or I use it to make to-do lists or grocery lists or to think about life or sometimes, existential nonsense. “Do we stare at the stars because we are human, or are we human because we stare at the stars?”
    2. Some dance background has definitely helped with the heavy-footedness, as has my penchant for running like a faerie (I tend to run on the balls of my feet, for better or worse- save the stoning for later). This sounds really silly, but sometimes I use the distinction between ‘hitting the ground’ and ‘placing my feet on the ground’ and just thinking about that changes it without consciously altering my stride. Also, sometimes if I’m bored, or the previous method isn’t work, I’ll ask my self ‘how does a cat run…Run like a cat. Do it. you won’t.’ and again, without consciously altering it, something has changed.

  2. RUN OUTSIDE! It’s the only way you’re going to get better… you shouldn’t be watching a tv while running… esp not when you’re a new runner. I do treadmill runs to sustain and outdoor runs for growth… you need to pay attention to your breath and your pace… to focus on being “less heavy” focus on kicking your butt instead of landing..

  3. questionsfordessert

    I can’t run on a treadmill. I appreciate (and am a little jealous) of people that can. I vary my pace so much that I just can’t do it. And it bothers my hips.

    I run to podcasts a lot – 2fitchicks, This American Life…and I read somewhere that Jillian’s KFI podcasts are coming back. Sometimes I need to be distracted. I want to forget that I’m running. I want it to be that easy.

    The thing that changed my running life the most is the foam roller. I roll out my legs and my arse after every run. I don’t know that my IT band could handle running without it anymore.

    I do journal my runs, but it’s just for my own entertainment. I do try to notice patterns of when I have stomach issues. I do most of my tracking on daily mile.

    I don’t know that I spend a lot of time dissecting my runs. I just run. Wow. that sounds a little Forest Gump, huh?

  4. Podcasts and audiobooks, for sure. I love a good audio murder mystery – the suspense keeps you going back out for more! (Try Robert B Parker – light, but smart.) My favorite podcasts include Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, The Satellite Sisters, Fresh Air, How Stuff Works, Prairie Home Companion, Car Talk, Speaking of Faith…

    I have found that treadmill running doesn’t translate to the street super well. In the past, I could be running four relatively easy miles at the gym only to find my legs felt heavy and sloooooow on the road. Now I live in Georgia, so it’s warm enough to run outside year-round, but up in y’all’s neck of the woods treadmills are necessary in the winter…

    My other tip? Keep it fun. If you need to walk, walk. Run up the hills, walk down. Do intervals. Borrow someone’s dog. Whatever keeps you enjoying the process and wanting more the next day! At the moment, I’m walking for 1/2 hour in the early morning with some friends, and then breaking off for a 2-mile run. I’d like to have time for more, but this is a sustainable routine, so I’m sticking with it!

    Oh, and I’m totally in for the Manchester Road Race, although I don’t think I feel like training hard enough to run the whole thing!

  5. Running outside will help with the boredom. Stick to the street or paved trails (the sidewalk is hard on the body, not to mention the crack issue). I almost always do intervals if I’m stuck on a treadmill or I have a lot of trouble keeping going even with TV! (think 1/4 miles repeats with 2-3 min of walking between) Its also easier to daydream outside I think.
    I’m pretty heavy footed, but its improved over time. I think its just one of those practice things – sometimes I focus on shortening my stride which helps.
    When I was running a lot, I did some yoga to help with the tightness. The foam roller is good too. I’m only doing 10-20 miles/week right now so its more manageable (eg, I ignore it, whereas before it was painful) – that’s really good you’re working on it now πŸ™‚

  6. I highly suggest the foam roller as well. I have The Grid foam roller from Trigger Point. It was around $40 (I had a $25 off coupon I used from the store) and they made many positive selling points…really twisted my arm ;). I do keep a running/workout journal and record how long, distance if known and any notes about pain, easiness, thoughts for next time. I haven’t really ran on a treadmill since March I believe and I’m dreading going back because it hurt the last time I did it. Keep in mind that you should have an incline of at least 1 when running on the treadmill. This helps mimic the outdoors more and alleviates some of the stress on your joints just because of the angle that you are constantly hitting the treadmill. You have to remember that outdoors isn’t exactly flat all of the time either. As for boredom when running on a treadmill. I will do the same…people watch, watch some tv, listen to my music…it’s hard I can really only manage 30 minutes, yet I can go run outside for over 2 hours without a problem in the boredom category. Change things up with interval training as already mentioned. I will do splits of 1min generally. Ex. 1min at speed of 8, 1min at 6.5 I believe (It’s been awhile) that way I am running an average of about 9min pace and it actually helps with your conditioning a great deal. I was doing that back at the beginning of the year and it definitely helped increase my average pace in my races.

  7. If I do run (and I really don’t like running!) running outside helps me – so many things to look at!

    And I am the queen of running/walking on the treadmill while watching FoodTv! πŸ˜€

  8. Have you looked for a local running club or running store? I find the best way not to be bored is to run with people and talk. Plus the regular schedule and accountability are bonuses! That will also get you outside, which is interesting in and of itself.

    As for the tight muscles, stretch religiously and immediately after EVERY run. I like the foam roller suggestions too.

  9. I do 95% of my runs outside. But I still get very bored as well. Anything over 1 hour and I am going crazy, but as someone said, I try and just let my mind wander and think about anything else I can. How my day was or upcoming plans or something as trivial as my grocery list. I find it very difficult to try and do both (treadmill & outside). It always makes me extremely sore. But now that we are heading into the cold months in Cleveland I guess I will have to spend some more “quality” time with treadmill. It does help to journal your workouts. I also find it helps me to hold myself accountable.

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