Learning to Run: Part Three

Here’s a quick re-cap before we begin part three: In Part One I was a blob who started (but never finished) the Couch to 5K running program to get my butt off the couch and, in the end, lost about 12 pounds in a matter of 2 months. I then moved to the Cincinnati area, which is where Part Two begins. After 3 months of laziness, beer-drinking, and socializing, I finally moved to California where the sunshine, lack of snow, and healthier feel of the state motivated me to get back on track (even if it did take 6 months to do so)! Unfortunately it’s time for me to move back to the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area and bid farewell to the lovely, lovely state of California.

One thing was certain with my move to Kentucky: I wanted to avoid getting lazy again, just as I had done with both of my work-related moves. Unfortunately, the means by which I used to go from CA to KY was by car. Yes, you read that correctly.

My car was so packed Tetris-style that I didn't have room for my coffee maker.

Four and a half days on the road with pit stops in Las Vegas, the Hoover Dam, the Grand Canyon, the Four Corners, Albuquerque, Oklahoma City, Little Rock, Nashville, and Lexington meant that I probably was going to be doing a lot of sitting and a lot of eating. Speaking of which, let me introduce you to the best hamburger I’ve ever had in my life:

Tex-Mex Burger, from BLT Burger - Las Vegas, NV

…and a meter-long daiquiri:

Oh, Las Vegas...

And that was just in Vegas. We ate BBQ in Little Rock and in Albuquerque. We ate fast food at nearly every pit stop and driver swap. Sigh. What’s a girl to do? Luckily this was only 4 and a half days of my life, and in the hotel room every night I would do push-ups, crunches, and squats. I continued to track all of my food online to hold myself accountable.

But I didn’t run.

I didn’t even go for a run for a number of weeks after arriving in Kentucky. It wasn’t until the boyfriend flew back to NYC that I finally had the loneliness time to get back to it.

I popped in my Bender Ball DVD. I hit up the gym in my apartment complex regularly. I even joined a large mega-gym nearby. I continued to weigh my food, weigh myself, measure my body, and keep up with my running.

But, I had no goal. That had to change.

With the motivation of an upcoming convention hosted in Cincinnati by the aforementioned goal-setting/weight-loss website, I had a goal: run my first race with other members and staff of the site after the convention.

The race was the Teddy Bear 5K in downtown Cincinnati. 3.1 miles. I’d never run more than 2.5 miles without stopping, and that was in sunny California around a gorgeous lake. In my town in Kentucky, I couldn’t run on the roads because of how wooded, un-lit, and winding the roads were. The gym was my salvation from the dangerous roads. I was nervous and felt ill-prepared. I had a goal in the way back of my mind to finish the race in under a half hour, but I was very doubtful I would. All I truly wanted was to finish at all!

Well, I did.

My first 5K with SparkPeople members and staff (all/most of which I'm in contact with today, and one in particular is a very close friend now). I'm in the white, on the left. 9/27/09

I finished my race in 28:56 – about one minute faster than the goal I thought was out of my reach. Not only that, but check out that medal around my neck. (I’m in the white tee shirt.) I came in 2nd in my division (females, 18-24) and got a medal. Nancy, who is the Spark People running guru/coach, was crying when I (and a couple of others in our bunch) got medals.

As if I wasn’t pumped enough about running my first 5K and finishing under a half hour, I had a medal around my neck. I looked like a runner. I was a winner, with or without the medal, thanks to the support that I had the day of. It would’ve been a whole different experience if I didn’t have that bunch of smiling faces with me!

Well, that race created a monster. I signed up for a few more 5Ks: Reggae Run (still my favorite, to this day), the Cheetah Run (which goes through the Cincinnati Zoo), to name a few. Despite not hitting the pavement, I was starting to get used to the dreadmill at the gym. It was especially convenient in the winter when running outdoors is out of the question (well, at least at that point in my running… more about how that changed in a future post!). Let me get to the point: I turned into a gym rat.

Living by myself meant I could do what I want, when I want to. I ended up signing up for a personal trainer sometime in the late summer of 2009 and saw him until mid-summer 2010. We’d meet twice a week and do a half hour of strength training: lower body one day, upper body the other day. I’d do abs and back on my own. After strength-training with him after work, I’d run on the treadmill before heading home. On the days I didn’t see my trainer, I’d do fitness classes.

I kid you not: on Saturday mornings I would be at the gym at 8:45am to do the following —

  • 9:00-9:50 – Zumba
  • 9:50-10:00 – Abs
  • 10:00-11:00 – Spinning

I’d usually burn about 800-900 Calories (sometimes more!) during this time, and I’d usually crash and take a nap after I showered at home. To think, by noon I had already done a crazy-intense workout! This paired with my personal trainer really did improve my running. I had more muscle tone which significantly increased my endurance. I would easily run for a half hour on the treadmill with an incline of 1.5 at a speed of 6.7 miles per hour. Once I even ran for 40 minutes (with a 5 minute warm-up and cool-down walk) and that blew my mind!

Not only that, but during this time I reached my long-term weight loss goal I’d set back in 2008: 137 pounds.

Before (April 2008) and after (January 2010).

Hell, I’d surpassed the goal I felt was near impossible! Remember in Part One when I mentioned I couldn’t find any of the awful photos from me in Hawaii at 172.5 pounds? Well, the before photo is one of them. I had found the exact outfit from that photo and put it on to truly show what a difference it was. I’d hit the big goal with weight-loss!

…but what about my running goals? How do I restructure my mentality to focus on my running rather than the scale? More on that in Part Four. In the meantime, here’s another list: Five do’s and/or don’t’s to keep in mind for your first race.

  1. DO seek a support group. This can vary person to person. At first, a “group” for me was nothing more than me and my iPod. As I continued on in Kentucky at the gym, my “group” became me, my iPod, and my personal trainer, who I always kept up-to-date on my running and other achievements. The biggest support group was SparkPeople, as I would update my blog at least 5 times per week and would get comments and words of encouragement from people I’d never even met in person. If you are a good self-motivator, maybe all you need is your own mentality to support your efforts. If you need to join a running group in your neighborhood, then go ahead and do so.
  2. DO spread the word. I am not the kind of person to blab about every facet of my life to my parents. I don’t like drawing their attention… call me strange, but that’s just how I am. Despite this, I did tell my parents I was running a 5K, and I was definitely not surprised when their minds were blown. “You? The girl who couldn’t run a mile in under 13 minutes in elementary school?” Well, they didn’t say that verbatim but they were shocked… and rightfully so! Now I tell pretty much everyone when my next race is! Regardless of the reaction you get, telling others holds you accountable and significantly reduces the chance of chickening out!
  3. DON’T assume anything. What I mean by this is that not everything goes as planned. You can dream and dream of running your first 5K in less than a half hour, but unless you put in the work before hand, you may not do as well as you’d hoped. When I ran the Cheetah Run 5K last fall, it was after about 6 months of not running at all (which I’ll mention in a future post!). As I lined up at the starting line I assumed, “Hey, I’m a runner! I’ve got X number of 5K races under my belt! I’ll totally do this in less than 28 minutes!” Boy, was I wrong. I had my worst ever 5K time — somewhere around 31 minutes. I was so miserable afterwards, and it’s all because I made a stupid assumption. The difference between assuming you’ll kick ass and having a goal in mind is that the former is usually thought of blindly, while the latter is thought of while appropriately planning/training for it. Unfortunately, things can go wrong anyway, which brings me to my next point…
  4. DO realize that things can go wrong. All the planning, training, and work can’t prevent everything. Even the most seasoned marathoners roll their ankle. Someone running their 10th 5k race can have a shoelace come untied. Someone who is a qualified Boston marathoner can make a wrong turn during a race (which has happened to a coworker of mine!). Most recently, the world’s fastest man (and gold medalist), Usain Bolt, was disqualified from the 100m world championship because he false-started. If things can go wrong for this seasoned veteran, don’t be surprised — or sad! — if it happens to you.
  5. DO register! Pick a race, pay the fee, and register. You can say, “I want to run a 5K someday!” all you want, but until it’s paid for and on your calendar, “someday” is just in your imagination.

Part Four will be posted in due time, where I’ll talk about my biggest running challenge to date!

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2 responses

  1. Congrats and well done!
    Love the before and after pictures – very inspiring! I am still looking for motivation to get out and start to run – that will certainly help! Keep running! I will have to motivate my butt and get out there!

    • Thank you! I am unfortunately not in the same shape as I was in January 2010 – probably about 8 pounds heavier and not as much endurance as I once had. But, life is full of ups and downs, right? 🙂

      Your comment has reminded me to get started on Part Four of this series… whoops!

      Thanks for the comment!

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