I am really pleased to bring you a guest blog post from Stephanie Davies, who is the owner and creator of the blog I RUN California. Stephanie is a 46 year old mother of three teenagers who lives in the Bay Area. She has been running for 29 years and is an Ambassador for The SF Marathon, The Berkeley Half Marathon and the Mermaid Series. Stephanie is an ambassador/taste agent for Skratchlabs and recently became a certified RRCA coach. Stephanie is heavily involved with her local running community and continuously strives to learn more about the sport that she loves so much. She is also the creator of a women’s only running group in the Bay Area named, We RUN the Bay. Here is her blog post.
How does one begin the sport of running? Simple - one just runs. Or is it that simple? It gets a little tricky when one thinks about duration, intensity, distance, managing life, managing career, and worse, managing injury.
Running has taken off in our country within the last few years. A sport that was primarily for the male elite pre-Title IX, is now encompassing all age groups, all body shapes, and the field is full of mostly women. We now have couch to 5k, couch to ultra, every distance in between 5k and 100mile runs, mud runs, get zapped while you run-runs, paint in your face runs, jump from an airplane runs (I am being facetious - you watch…it will happen) and any form of marketing, albeit brilliant, to get the average, non-elite to do what? Run!
Where does one begin? There are millions of cookie cutter training programs out there that are tried and true. I know because I have used them for 4 of my 13 marathons. After some education and realization that I can cater these plans to fit my life, I learned how to build my own plans. That may not be possible for everyone and ultimately, a certified running coach is what a runner needs to make the proper decisions on when, how much, at what effort, and for how long. You need gentle guidance from a coach who understands that your training plan should fit your life, not your life to your training plan. You work in harmony to achieve the desired goal or get as close to it as possible. Life sends curveballs. We never know what variables may face us on race day, but we trust our training and cross that finish line like we won the whole race even if we come in last.
What do we do if we get injured while on our journey? Injuries occur for many reasons. Improper shoes would be the first reason. I highly advocate getting a proper gait analysis done. A store that specializes in running should have a trained professional in gait analysis. I am not talking about stores that make you run on a treadmill and then try and sell you inserts, lifts, special laces and gadgets. I am talking about someone who will watch you run from behind, from the front, and across their line of vision. This person will video you (or should video you) so that they can watch your movements to determine not only what shoe may be best for you, but perhaps also make suggestions on your form. Running form is key to keeping you healthy as a runner. Improper form leads to expended energy, the wrong muscle groups working to do the job of the bigger muscles, and inevitably, injury.
Injury can also occur when doing too much too soon. Speed and Distance added at the same time is never a good combination - especially if you are a novice. Choose one or the other, but never both at the same time. Recognize that it takes the body 2-3 weeks to adjust to a new stress. Build a strong base before adding a new stress. For many novice runners, the base will be beginning at a walk/run method, gradually decreasing the walk time (new stress) until one is able to introduce a full run (new stress). The same applies to experienced runners. Making sure that your base mileage is strong before adding more (remember the 10% rule - add no more than 10% of your weekly mileage) mileage. Adding tempo and interval runs at an effort slowly building to an hour will be beneficial to your success.
Learn to recognize the difference between muscle soreness and injury. An injury does not go away and at times will get worse when you are running. If you feel this - STOP! There is no need to be a hero or a martyr and run through the pain. You are only doing further damage. No, the internet is NOT your friend. You may have symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis, but how do you not know it could be a stress fracture of your calcaneus? A very wise man once told me, “Unless you are a doctor, you are not a doctor." Find an Orthopedic who is runner friendly and make that doctor a part of your tool box. Along with an Orthopedic, find someone who specializes in Active Release Technique (A.R.T.) to help with the scar tissue build up and release of the fascia that can hang up your running shoes. Find specialists that will keep you in top condition. You are only as strong as your support system. It pays to have those in your corner who have the same beliefs and share the same passion for running that you do.
Most of all, have fun. Running should not hurt. When it does, you may need a break. The question remains, are you mentally strong enough to recognize that you need that break?
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