December 19th will be my one year running anniversary. I had started and stopped numerous running programs over the course of a few years, never sticking with it. Well, on that date one year ago, my husband had jumped on the bandwagon to help me find a program I'd stick to, because he knew I really wanted to be a runner. So I took my first running steps of my new program on that day. I remember when I started that day I said that I would consider myself a "runner" after I had been doing it consistently for one year. Well, that one year is here. I am officially going to start calling myself a runner now!
My goal was to run 365 miles for the year (the inspiration for that number came from it being Mark Zuckerberg's goal and he has a Facebook running group for it). I met the 365 miles this past Monday. Today, I took my last run of my first year of being a runner (not the last run of 2016), and I finish with a total of 370 miles. I'm happy!
What I love about running:
- It's a great form of exercise that you don't need to drive to a gym for. You can step right outside your front door. This saves you time and makes itmore convenient.
- You can gain the same benefits from walking, but you would need to do it nearly twice as long since it's not as intense. With running, you get a lot of health benefits from just running 90 minutes per week. Research shows that you only need to run 6 miles per week to gain lots of health benefits from it, including it adding 3-6 years onto your life.
- That you challenge yourself and prove to yourself over and over that you can do it. Running is challenging, and sticking with it takes strength and dedication.
- It's done outdoors. I'm a nature lover and love the outdoors. My favorite run yet was the Bulow Woods Trail Race. I also loved the Higgins Lake Sunrise Run in Northern Michigan that I did back in June, even though the elevations kicked my butt. I love running in nature and being able to exercise outdoors.
- The way I feel when I'm done. When you stop running you feel amazing! Your entire body feels alive, you feel happy, and feel that you have accomplished something. Running releases endorphins that lift your mood, it releases stress, and just makes you feel good both physcially and mentally.
I typically run 3 times per week, for 2.5-3 miles at a time. Once I was able to run a couple of miles straight, I stopped taking any breaks and never run intervals. Sometimes I run 4 miles to challenge myself. I ran my first official 5K in New Smyrna Beach in February, and I ran my first 4.25 mile trail race in Ormond Beach this month (and it was so awesome!). For 2017, I plan to stick with running each week, with my goal to likely remain at reaching 365 miles for the year. I've also read numerous books this year on running. By far, my favorite has been "Running with the Mind of Meditation."
If you are interested in getting started with running, great! There are some popular running programs out there that people use, but I'm not a fan of them. I think they get people too reliant upon doing walking intervals, rather than training to run the full distance (whatever your desired distance my be), and they can be discouraging (such as the Couch to 5K program insinuating that people should be at a 10-minute mile). Those programs didn't work for me. I like my husband's training plan, which is what worked for me and for my sister (who also ran her first 5K this year). Although I don't run using walking intervals (neither does my husband), there's nothing wrong with it for those who want to take that route. Doing walking intervals can be helpful when first getting started with a running program, and even if you stick with using them you are still doing your body a lot of good. The only time I used any walking intervals is when I first got started, and I would just do two short (1.5-2 minute) breaks during a 2-2.5 mile run. My goal was to eliminate all walking intervals, so I would shorten them every other week, and then finally just eliminated walk breaks all together back at the end of January, so I had only used them for about the first month.
My husband is an avid runner. He runs much more than I do, and at a much faster pace. He has done many half marathons, and last month he ran his third full marathon (running every step of it). His running plan is this:
- On your first day out, start running at a comfortable pace and see how far you can go. Run as long as you can, until you feel you can't do it anymore. Maybe it's one minute, maybe it's 10 minutes, as it will vary for everyone. Note that time.
- The time you noted is your benchmark. You will start building your running distance based on that number. On my first time out, I could run one mile straight. But my sister could only do about 1 minute. We both built on our times, increasing it little by little. Let's say you start out being able to run 10 minute straight. Do that for a week or two, until you feel you can add more, then add on 1-2 minutes. Don't add on a lot of time, stick to about 10 percent increments being added every other week or so.
- If your goal is run two miles, keep the breaks that you need to take short (1.5 to 2 minutes), and shorten them up as you get stronger, until you finally remove them all together.
- Don't focus on the pace. Instead, keep focused on your distance. Over time, your pace will automatically get better, without you even focusing on it. Your goal is to manage your breathing and be in tune with your body. Your legs and lungs need to be in tune so you can breathe and keep going. If you can't breathe very well, slow down. It's all about learning to be in tune with your body to manage your breathing and pace.
- Keep adding time, until you reach where you want to be. If your goal is to run a 5K, then train yourself to run about 2.75 miles straight. He likes to have people "keep something in the tank," so that when you run that 5K it's the longest run you have done. It won't always be like that, but it works for the first one at each longer milestone.
- Be sure to get some proper running shoes. I suggest going to a place like Spike's in Holly Hill to be properly fitted for them. The most important thing you need when starting a running program is a good pair of running shoes and the right mindset.
Many people start and stop running programs, like I did for a few years. What was different for me this time was that I followed my husband's plan. It worked great! I ran consistently every week and loved it. Even when it was hot during the summer and I would be hesitant to go out and run in the morning, I still did it. My husband would tell me that it was good training and would help me when it got cooler outside. He was right! Over the year, my pace became faster without even trying, because I consistently stuck with it.
If you want to have support, you can also join some local running groups, such as the ones offered at The Running Elements in Port Orange, the Daytona Beach Track Club, Volusia Coastal Runners, and West Volusia Runners.
Over the course of running for a year, I can say that my resting heart rate has went down quite a bit, I gradually lost around 15 pounds, and I feel great! In November, I had my physical to renew my life insurance policy (hard to believe the 10 year policy was already up). The blood tests they did covered 36 areas, all of which showed that I was healthy. The life insurance company wrote that I was "very healthy" and approved me for the 20-year renewal that I had applied for. In fact, they also said I had the best cholesterol level they had ever seen (I then explained that I've been primarily vegan for over 21 years). When I took up this running program I had turned 45 (will be 46 in January). I want to continue to run that 6 miles per week for as long as I'm phsycially and mentally able to. I really want to be one of those 60-70 year old people running in the 5K's. In an country where many people who are in their 60s and 70s can't get around very well, I'm always in awe of those in that age range I see running in the races. Those are the runners who impress me!
I am looking forward to continuing my running program in 2017, and I wish you luck if you begin one, too!
- Jacqueline Bodnar