December 15, 2018

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The Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Run

I thought I would never have a bad workout.  Then one day, I made a painful discovery – I’m human.  

I am currently training for a half-marathon.  Something I’ve been doing to help me build up my endurance is do a long run one day a week, gradually adding a mile each week.  The day I was to do my 7 mile run, I was up bright and early at 6:30 and headed out the door to my route.  I finished with a time of 1:08 before heading back home for a meeting.  I was on cloud nine, thinking I was some super human that could just wake up and run (I did warm-up and cool down).

The next week, however, was a different story.  Looking at the weather, I thought it would be too cold to run my 8 miles in the morning.  So I decided I would run an hour or two after breakfast.  Since I didn’t want a big meal to slow me down, I had about a cup of oatmeal with a little water.  That was it.

While Josh and I were talking during my little break, I realized it was high time for me to get some new workout clothes.  So we all headed to the store for me to get some new outfits.  One thing led to another and, by the time we checked out, it was at least an hour later than the time I had planned to start my run.

Not sure if I would be able to drive to my route, run, and get back before Josh headed to work, we decided we would all go to the park where I was going to start my route and make a picnic out of it.  We headed home, I changed into my new clothes while Josh made some PB&J, and we headed to the park.  By the time we finally arrived, I had 1 1/2 hours before Josh was supposed to be to work.  I did a quick warm-up and set out on the trail in my new workout clothes – 6 hours after I had last eaten anything.

The run was horrible!  Instead of being in the 40s like it had been in the morning, it was now in the 70s.  I was self-conscious in my new clothes.  I stopped to have a drink from a little drinking fountain about a mile or two in , but that was it.  The first half seemed to go ok, but each mile after that just seemed to get harder with each step.  I kept looking at the sides of the trail and wondered, “If I fainted, would anyone find me?”.  Finally, I realized I wasn’t superhuman, and started walking.  Even this was tough!  I kept looking at my watch, realizing I was still wasn’t going fast enough for Josh to get to work on time.  I tried running periodically, but still had to walk the majority of the remaining route.  I knew once I got past another park, it was just a short distance until I crossed my finish line.  I swear the distance between the two parks doubled while I was out running!  At last, I saw the park I started at and ran what I could to the finish.

Once I finished my run, I tried doing a little cool down before heading to the car. The kids had gotten hungrier than we anticipated, so I didn’t even have a PB&J waiting for me when I got back.   I did have my water bottle, which was downed in one gulp.  We got in the car so Josh could head to work.  Once in the car, I took a look at myself in the mirror.  I looked and felt awful!  I noticed that I had some dry, white residue on my neck and forehead.  My shoulders were bright red from being out in the sun.  My feet were aching and sore.  I felt defeated.  If I couldn’t even run 8 miles, how was I going to run 13!?!  I dropped Josh off at work and headed home to make myself a tuna sandwich.

Later that week, I went in to see one of my doctors for a swollen lymph node.  She asked me how my training was going (she also runs), and I told her about the horrible run.  She gave me some advice on what I could do to make the runs go better.  I wanted to share her advice, plus some things I learned, with you when it comes to long runs.

  • Plan ahead.  Know exactly where you are going to run, and try to plan a time for it.  I use MapMyRun to figure out my routes, and weather.com has an hourly forecast that you can use to figure out what time might be the best.  If you can only run when it’s cold, dress warm enough.  If it is going to be hot, wear sunscreen.  But once you set a time, stick to it!  Sometimes a couple hours can make all the difference.
  • Eat!  The first problem with my run was I hadn’t eaten enough.  I am still trying to teach myself that I don’t need to lose weight anymore, so it is ok to eat!  Even if I am trying to lose weight, I still need to eat enough to fuel my body for longer distances.  A car can’t run on empty, and neither can a human body.  My doctor has a PB&J a little bit before her runs.  I’ve started eating a slice of whole wheat bread with peanut butter and a banana about an hour before I start, and endurance has gotten a lot better.
  • Hydration.  I also hadn’t drinken enough water that day.  I wasn’t sure what I was thinking, but I should have had a lot more.  For long runs, my doctor will place little water bottles along the route that she can pick up and drink along the way.  She recommended a hydration belt now that my milage was going to start increasing.  Josh and I found one on clearance at a running store, and this has also helped tremendously.  I’ve also started drinking more water before and after running.
  • Energy gels.  Something I hadn’t thought about was consuming energy while I ran.  I’ve started using some Gu or other energy gels while my mileage increases.  I’ve heard of some other runners using gels, energy bars, energy beans, etc.  Each person has their preference.  All I know is I’m able to have enough energy to finish my long runs each week now that I’ve started drinking more water and using the Gu.
  • Replenish.  It’s not only important to eat and hydrate before and during a run, but especially after.  I didn’t have anything other than my water bottle waiting for me when I finished my 8 mile run.  The PB&J I thought I had waiting for me was eaten by two hungry kids.  Since then, I’ve made sure that I always have something waiting for me AS SOON as I am done, such as a banana or an orange.  The white residue on my neck and face were from the electrolytes I lost through sweating, so I’ve also started drinking more water and sports drinks to help replace them after a long run.
  • Rest.  I think another reason my run was horrible was I worked out too much.  Before that week, I was using the days before my long runs as a rest/recovery day.  However, that week I had decided to do some exercise the night before.  I’ve realized that I’m not a superhuman and that my body needs rest!  So, I have gone back to resting the day before a long run.  This has helped me have the energy to keep going with each new mile, and I think my body is grateful too!
  • Consult a professional.  There is a lot of information out there online.  There are also a lot of professionals.  Dieticians, personal trainers, doctors, running experts, health coaches, etc.  If you have any questions when it comes to an active lifestyle, don’t forget these vital resources.  My running got a lot better once I talked to more experienced runners and my doctor.  Not only that, but I’ve enjoyed running a lot more!
  • Keep going.  Everyone is going to have a bad workout (in my case, run).  The important thing is to not give up!  Learn from your mistakes and keep going.  Yes, I was barely able to finish 8 miles.  However, since I’ve made a few changes, I have been able to run even longer distances with better times.

If you are struggling with running, or any part of living healthy, please don’t give up!  Everyone is going to have hard times. Just remember we are human, and we will make mistakes, but we can learn from them and improve.

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