Friday, March 16, 2012

Learn From My Mistakes

I was recently thinking about this blog and its purpose. The whole purpose is to share the story of my training and in doing so, instruct others on the sport and (possibly) inspire others to lace up their trainers. I'd like to use this Friday Five to get back to that.

Five Mistakes I Made When Starting Out

Believe it or not, there was a time when I didn't run. I was new to this sport at one time, and made some idiot moves. (Alright, alright -- I still make idiot moves. Will ya cut me some slack here?) Here are a few of them:

1. Running in heavy cotton

Because of my days of crew, I knew that moisture-wicking clothing existed. What I didn't know/take into account was that such moisture-wicking clothing could be used for running too.

I've done training runs (and even a race) in a heavy, cotton hoodie. Yes, it's nice and warm (which is great for when you're trying to stay warm in your house and don't want to pay for extra heat), but once you start sweating, you start to feel like a wet dog.

Cute to look at, but who wants to feel soggy? My advice: Go to a store that sells athletic apparel and has knowledgeable staff, and ask questions. Now nobody (myself included) wants to be the person who asks 50,000 questions. But that's what they're paid to do. Some stores I'd recommend are City Sports (if you're on the East Coast), Niketown, and Jack Rabbit (if you're in NYC).

2. Not running with a water bottle

I hate carrying stuff on my runs. If I wanted to go on an excursion, I'd pack a backpack and go on a hike in the woods. But water's essential. I trust that you know about the "eight glasses a day" rule, but there are other benefits! I'm aware of these benefits, and STILL avoided bringing a water bottle. Until my epic run to Jersey.

The epic part isn't that I went to Jersey (Why would anyone do that now?). The epic part is that it was a 2.5 hour run (I was going to run 1.25 hours, then turn around and run back), and at 5:30pm, it was probably around 90ºF. Still, I headed out. I ran up to the GW Bridge, over it, and through the fine neighborhoods of Jersey. I don't remember when I started feeling off, but after an hour and eight minutes, I came across a Target and decided that I had to stop for fluids. However, Target was closed. (Seriously, what madness is that??) Fortunately, Pathmark (local supermarket) was across the parking lot and open, so I went there and bought Vitamin Water. Since it's Jersey, the NYC busses and subways were nowhere to be found, so my only option was to run back (and drink the Vitamin Water). Well, it took much longer than 1:08 to run back. And when I got home, I drank 96 oz. of water before I had to pee. (That's how you know you have issues.) It was a classic case of hyponatremia

The gist of all of that: If you're going for a run longer than an hour, suck it up and bring some water to suck down.

3. Not properly fueling before and during long runs

When thinking about my training for my first three marathons, I can't recall what I ate before my long runs. What I can recall is what I ate during them. For the second and third marathons, I brought Gu packs and would consume one on the run (two if the situation called for it). For my first marathon, I didn't bring anything. (True story: I had never heard of Gu until I was in the midst of running the Philly Marathon.)

Your muscles need glycogen for energy. Furthermore, you're limited by the number of calories worth of glycogen you can store (which, by the way, is barely enough to make it through a marathon). By consuming some sort of energy (e.g., Gu, sports drink) on your long run, you supply additional fuel for your muscles (Source). Oh, and (hopefully) prevent yourself from hitting "the wall".

4. Not using a structured training plan

When you're just starting to cook for yourself, you follow a recipe. When you're trying to install and operate that fancy surround sound system with no prior experience, you read the manual (presumably). Running is no different. Let's face it -- when you're new at anything, you want/need guidance. Why I didn't think to look for guidance when training for my first marathon is beyond me.

I had no structured training plan, but knew that I had to run and increase my mileage. In hindsight, I would've greatly benefitted from a structured training plan that told me how far to run on what days.

5. Proper shoes

For some unbeknownst reason, I thought that all training shoes were created equally. It wasn't until I had a gait analysis (where they evaluate your running form and suggest proper shoes based on that) that I realized this. Furthermore, even within running shoes, there are specific kinds. There are neutral shoes, stability shoes (for those of you like me who tend to pronate), minimalist shoes (e.g., Vibram Five Fingers), and so on.

I remember that I ran Philly in these New Balances. I don't know what model they were, but I think they may have been cross-training shoes.

My advice: Speak with an expert, get a gait analysis, and buy shoes specifically for the sport.

I'm sure I still make mistakes. But it's a learning experience. I learn, you learn, we all learn. It's a win-win situation! And as a bonus, it's Friday!

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