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oh my god we're back again: RUNNING!

I've been running again!

I stopped running after my last marathon. Having developed osteoarthritis after a knee injury (from roller derby, not running), I had trouble running without pain after all that training, due to the weight I gained back after my weekly mileage dramatically decreased (because my body needed a break from that intensity) and the fact that I got more seriously into powerlifting (my knee can handle running OR it can handle squatting extremely heavy weights, but not both). So for a while, I convinced myself that I would never be able to run again. 

Last year, while I was pregnant, I suddenly found myself bit by the running bug again, which is funny because when I WAS heavily into running, I needed a constantly full calendar of races to stay motivated, and right now, races are a rare thing because of the, you know, worldwide panna cotta that we've been living in. But all of a sudden, I just really wanted to RUN.

I didn't, because I was heavily pregnant and that's not a great time to START running, but I made plans for myself, and this past winter/early spring, I started setting things into motion: I bought myself new shoes (more on that in a sec), I bought myself a running watch, I mapped out a route around my neighborhood, and I researched training plans. All I needed was to START.

But I was afraid. I did not feel confident in my body (aesthetically, yes, but also in its abilities), and I was afraid that I would try, and then my knee would hurt, and then I would feel like a failure. 

One afternoon particularly full of bad feelings, I was sitting around feeling miserable and disappointed in myself. I knew I should go do SOME sort of physical activity, but I just couldn't, and if you've ever experienced this feeling, you'll probably understand how frozen up you feel, and then how guilty you feel for being so frozen up. It's this awful spiral.

Fortuitously, this video came up on my Youtube recommendations. The coach in the video suggested starting with an interval of running 10 seconds and then walking 90 seconds, repeating for a total of ten minutes. 

And I don't know why, but it really made me stop and think. (Well, the fact that I could see locations in the video where I have run in my former running life back in California was pinging my sense of nostalgia and longing too, not gonna lie!) There was a time when I would have scoffed and been like, "10 SECONDS? I AM SO MUCH BETTER THAN THAT," but I'm older now, and broken, and I am not "so much better than" anything. Instead, I thought to myself, "I think I can do that!" And THAT was the push that got me to move. It was an afternoon after spring break, and the weather was gorgeous, and I had everything I needed to start running. So I just WENT FOR IT.

And it was glorious! It was just enough running for me to feel joyous, and just slightly out of breath, but not so much that I felt defeated and winded. And I wasn't in pain!!

Facebook post from that day

That was a month ago, and I have consistently been running 2-3 days a week since then, plus an Orangetheory class once a week. Using that 10-second interval as a starting point, I mapped out a plan to get me from that point to the starter intervals in the Phase 1 Weight Loss program in Running for Mortals by John Bingham and Jenny Hadfield. (NOTE: Though the program is titled as such, I am not trying to lose weight. It's basically a plan for beginner runners.) Basically, here's what I did for those "bridging" weeks:

  • Week 1- (Run :10/Walk 1:30) x6 on day 1, then (Run :10/Walk 1:30) x12 on day 2 (basically for 10 minutes, then 20 minutes)
  • Week 2- (Run :10/Walk 1:30) x18 (the rest of this is meant to be done 3 times per week)
  • Week 3- (Run :20/Walk 1:40) x15 
  • Week 4- (Run :30/Walk 2:00) x12 
  • Week 5- (Run :40/Walk 2:20) x10      <----This is where I currently am as of this post
  • Week 6- (Run :50/Walk 2:40) x10
And after that, I would start the run/walk intervals outlined in the book, which I won't share here because it's not my material to share.

I'm not a coach or anything, so I don't know if this is a sound plan (pls don't sue), but it's been working for me! As I'm increasing my run portions just a little bit, I'm also increasing my walk portions. And yes, there have been days where I feel like the progress has been agonizingly slow, and I just want to jump ahead in my program, but I don't let myself because the important part is getting my body (especially my knee) used to running again, NOT stroking my ego. Because I could just as easily go out there, try to be a hero, and then get thoroughly walloped and never want to run again.

So far, it's been pretty fantastic overall. It's never fun being reminded of all your minor aches and twinges, but that's all part of it (as long as it's not actual pain). It is nice to be reminded of how wonderful it is to move. It is nice to be a runner again, no matter how minuscule the amount of running is compared to my former feats of glory.

I don't know if I will ever run another marathon. I don't know if I will ever run another half marathon. I WANT to do these things, but I need to let my knee call the shots (and also, we still haven't left behind this panaderia enough to gather in large crowds and breathe heavily together), so for now, my goal is just to get back into the habit of things, build up my endurance, and have fun!

I have had enough friends ask about my getting-back-into-running process and experiences that I was hoping this post would help get others started, whether for the first time or for the first time in a long time like me. Any new sport can seem overwhelming, so I just wanted to share my recs for what things have been useful for me this past month in case you're thinking of doing exactly what I'm doing. :)

Any runner worth their salt will tell you that the most important piece of gear you should invest in are proper running shoes. Ideally, you would seek out a running specialty store (Bay Area friends: I was a big supporter of Running Revolution; up here, I like Portland Running Company; nationally, Roadrunner Sports) where they will analyze your gait and fit you properly, but I get it if you're not too keen on having someone crouched at your feet and squeezing your toe box while we're currently living in a panini. There are plenty of tutorials for how to figure out if you over- or under- pronate at home, and it's not perfect, but it will do. For the amount of running that you are starting out with, it doesn't have to be perfect. Choose something that will give you the proper support and cushioning. Do you research.

(I am running in Hoka Clifton 7 shoes, which, even in their wide width, are too narrow if I were training long distances. BUT I'M NOT, SO.)

Running clothes: I know people love Nike and Lululemon and such, but I've gotten most of my running apparel from Target for YEARS and they're awesome and affordable. Dress for your climate, and opt for layers when it's cold unless you live somewhere extremely cold. Wear running socks, not cotton ones. (Avoid cotton if you're sweaty.) The second most important piece of running gear, by the way, is a properly-fitting running bra, if you are someone who needs one. (In my opinion, at least.)

Water: You don't need the full-on hydration pack for a 30-minute run/walk; a handheld will do. Bonus points if it has straps so that you don't have to actively hold it with your hand, like mine. (It's from Nathan Sports and quite old, but here are their current offerings.) Extra bonus points if the pocket can fit your phone, ID, keys, etc.

An interval timer: You can search up any number of free phone apps that can do this for you. For myself, I hate looking at my phone while I'm out on a run (and I don't want to drain the battery in case I have an emergency), so I use a Garmin Forerunner 35, which is a GPS running watch. (The 35 and 45 are Garmin's entry-level models.) I have used various models of the Forerunner throughout all my years of running, and they're just my favorite--I love that the interval feature beeps at me when it's time to run or walk, so I don't have to think about it. But again, there are phone apps that do it for free, or if you want to keep glancing at your watch to check for time, you can use any ol' wristwatch.

"Better late than never" because I didn't set it up until mid-April, haha

Finally, you need some HYPE! I know that cultivating discipline is more important than motivation, but you know what? A little motivation never hurt. Dangle that carrot! For me, it was this tracker page that I set up in my bullet journal--watching it fill up with stickers really kept me going. For someone else, it might be promising yourself a special something after you've reached a certain goal. For another person, it's validation from a social media post and encouraging words from friends. Make this a joyful experience! Running should NOT be a punishment anymore. This isn't something you have to do, it's something you get to do! (Trust me, as someone who has spent years thinking that she'd never be able to run again--running is a privilege.) Run HAPPY.

I hope this post helps someone, and if you are getting (back) into running too, let me know!!! I would love to be your hype buddy on your journey!

Good luck!