Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Beginning Running

The marathon is 26.2 miles. It is meant to represent the distance the Greek messenger Pheidippides covered returning to Athens to deliver the news that the Athenians had been victorious against the invading Persians at the battle of Marathon.

Of course, I didn't know that back in June of 2012. I mean, I knew the marathon was an obscene distance. I had no idea what it took to really do that. I didn't know about heart rate zones, or much about a good diet.

See, in my life, I've always been pretty average. I mean, I always viewed myself as an artist growing up (yep, I'm that pretentious at times.) In high school, I subscribed to the idea that an artist is not an athlete. Those things aren't the same. I was friends with nerds, hell, I was a nerd. You don't do athletic things when your world view is so myopic. The most athletic thing I ever did was walk the mile to and from school, and that had more to do with not wanting to be accountable to my family's time frame.

So in 2011 when I was hired for my first real teaching job, I was not in great shape. I had just come off of four years in college, the last three of which involved some really lousy eating and some very heavy drinking. I graduated in the fall of 2009 right into the height of the depression and couldn't find any work for two years. It was a rough time. There were doldrums.

Then I got hired for the job in 2011, and what could have been a bright light that helped rebuild me shattered me even further. I worked in a hyper-conservative town over an hour away, which meant massive commute time and a huge culture shock. The school board in that district was very anti-teacher and mandated an hour of work after school a week. Since I only served students once a week as a music teacher, many of my students did not require extra help and so much of the year I spent that hour alone in my room preparing lessons. I prefer doing my prep work at home, and combined with a rude and domineering administration, I had one of the worst years of my life.

At the end of that school year, I weighed about 230 pounds. I passed out on a boating trip. I was in my late 20s. That was scary.

So, my wife and I decided to start logging our food, and I began (secretly) a run/walk program. It was really tough. It hurt a lot at first. Gradually, the weight started coming off. I ran my first 5k in October of 2012. A year later I would run my first Marathon. In that time I lost 65 pounds. My face changed totally, and my attitude towards life became much more laid back. I let go of things now. I make peace and move on.

Running saved me in a lot of ways. Strong friendships and a great family helped, too.

I will flesh out more of the details of my running over the next several years. This is just a basic intro on me as an endurance athlete. It still feels odd to call myself an athlete.

I want to take a couple seconds here at the end of this post to plug the running plans on About.com, which I used to train through my first Run/Walk, 5k, 10k, Half-marathon, and Marathon. I can personally attest that they work really well, and if you're like me and didn't want to do the same C25k everyone else was doing, they were really nice. The plan I started with was written by Christine Luff, and it is excellent.

Check it out in it's entirety over here.

I took the plan, copied it into an OpenOffice file, and I tallied off the workouts as I completed them. That page looked like this:

Notes on Beginning Running

Use your breathing as your guide when running. You should be able to carry on a conversation while running and your breathing shouldn't be heavy. Proper breathing will help you avoid annoying side stitches.

Drink water at the end of your workouts to rehydrate. If it's hot and humid, you should also drink some water (about 4-6 ounces) halfway through your workout.

Stay conversational on all of your exercise sessions. This means that you should be exerting yourself at a low enough level that you could talk. It's okay to take deep breaths between sentences, but you don't want to "huff and puff" between every word.

As the runs get longer, be sure to keep your blood sugar boosted by eating an energy bar (or equivalent) about an hour before exercise. Drink water continuously before and during exercise and with all food.

Run/Walk Program

Week one: Walk for six minutes, then jog at an easy pace for one minute. Repeat three times. Aim for three sessions with that same sequence for week one.

Week two: Walk for five minutes, then jog for two minutes. Repeat three times. Aim to do three sessions in week two. ||||

Week three: Walk for three minutes, then jog for four minutes. Repeat four times. Aim for three sessions in week three. ||||

Week four: Walk for two minutes, then jog for five minutes. Repeat four times. Shoot for three of those sessions in week four. ||||

Week five: Walk for two minutes, then jog for eight minutes. Repeat three times. Do three of those sessions in week five. |||||

Week six: Walk for two minutes, then jog for nine minutes. Repeat three times. Try to do three sessions for week six. ||||

Week seven: Walk for one minute, then jog for 11 minutes. Repeat three times. Do three sessions this week. ||||

Week eight: Congratulations on making it to week eight! For your first run this week, try walking for five minutes to begin and end the workout, and run for 20 minutes in between. |

By the end of the week, try to run for 30 minutes without stopping. ||||

That was it! That was the whole thing that started my running journal. I started keeping a more detailed journal after that, with duration, calories burned, footwear, etc. You name it, I pretty much documented it. Down to how many and which blisters and where. I may share some of those pages later, we'll see. Maybe just for fun.

Anyway, my point in sharing that is that you don't need much to start: if a tally sheet helps, use a tally sheet. If not thinking about it at all helps, do that. But I'd recommend a tally sheet if only so you can look back at the end of each week, and think "Who knew I had that kind of drive in me?"

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