Tuesday, April 21, 2009

learning to run

For most of my life when I wanted to learn something new, I picked up a book. This probably stems from my chronic inability to admit there is someting I do not know. My mom likes to tease me with stories about how I would wave her away and claim "I know, I know Mom!" when she tried to help me with one thing or the other. I found books to be the easiest and least humiliating way to learn because I never had to admit to something I did not know to the book. The book could just teach me and then I would know!

A couple of weeks into this couch to 5k program I have found myself in, I decided I need to know more about running. I felt I knew so very little I did not even know what questions to ask. And believe me, this is an area in which I am not afraid to admit that I know nothing and ask for help. So I did what I always do, I bought a book. This book to be precise. I have not yet finished the entire book but I have to say that so far I am impressed with the conversational voice and the easy flow. Among other things, the book sparked me to buy actual running shoes. Not only that, it helped me understand what I was looking for in a running shoe and urged me to go to an actual running store rather than just resort to my default of online shopping. I also received some advice from a running friend that I should go to a running store to get fitted.

So last week I stopped at a running store on my way home from work. I felt a bit silly walking into the store, still afraid to attach the word running to my body. I was convinced everyone else was some sort of marathoner and there I was hauling around my extra pounds with those miniature runners zipping about, every one of them knowing exactly what they need and want. I pretended to look at the sports bras near the front until a sales person asked if I needed help. I then asked if they carried shoes. Ummm, of course they do, it is a running store. He pointed me toward the back and I made my way there to find a relatively small wall of shoes. I knew I needed help but wasn't sure how to ask. I looked at the wall for a minute as the lone salesperson helped someone else. Then I noticed a woman sitting on one of the benches waiting and decided that would work best, just wait my turn. When she was asked if she needed help, she responded that she needed new running shoes but had no idea what she needed and I piped in "me too!" and continued to wait.

Soon I was greeted by my sales clerk who had me remove my shoes, roll up my pant legs and walk back and forth for him. His assessment? No pronation, I walked very steadily. Hoping to corroberate his opinion I offered that I had checked the soles of my gym shoes and the wear was pretty even . . . my book had suggested this. And just as the book had explained, he had me do a couple of squats and then had me run a couple more times and ultimately decided I have a slight pronation - or rolling in - and he brought me a stack of shoes to try.

I tried shoe after shoe after shoe and struggled to differentiate among them. I wear a size 7 in most shoes with 71/2 being the largest size I have ever worn but ultimately this guy convinced me to take home a size 8 pair of Saucony running shoes. I was skeptical. My book had suggested wearing a larger size because women generally wear a size too small out of vanity. Wearing shoes that are too small has never been a problem for me. If the shoes hurt, I stop wearing them and shoes that are too small hurt.

I wore the shoes running on the treadmill the next morning. But they felt big. And kind of wide too. I wore them one more time a couple of days later and got shin splints for the first time - again on the treadmill.

On Saturday I returned them and decided to exchange them not only for a half size smaller but for my second choice shoe - a pair of Asics. This second sales guy agreed that I did not need to go any bigger than a 71/2 and watched me run on the treadmill in them. I took them home and ran outside. So much better. I ran again the next day and again this morning and haven't had a sign of shin splints.

I never thought I could be a runner. I also never tried. And the beauty of trying now is I have pretty low expectations which means I am constantly surprising myself. I mean, this past weekend I went running outside twice and I didn't hate it. Actually, I hated some of it. Especially that last five minutes I had to run into the wind when I was actually barely shuffling and I had to convince myself to just run to that sign or that tree up ahead before I look at my watch again. But afterwards? The sense of accomplishment? I like that part.

Another thing I like about my own low expectations of myself running? That I have virtually nothing to compare myself to. Usually, when I have been out of shape or at least fallen out of the habit of some particular exercise I enjoy, it is frustrating to start up again. In my head I want to start where I left off but my body generally has other ideas and I hit a wall far too early. I then get frustrated at how out of practice I am or how slow I am going or how inflexible I've become and I lose motivation as my own ego defeats my drive. But with running? Well, I've never done it. Each day is new and each day I have the potential to be better than I was the day before.

Plus, I bought a fun toy to track my running. The Nike+. My sister uses it and suggested I try it. I bought it immediately along with a new compatible ipod (I'd been wanting something smaller for quite a while anyway). Toys can be a huge motivation for me and this thing is no exception. A sensor fits into a little pouch you lace onto your shoe and then you plug this other piece into your ipod (or you can get a watch if you prefer). And voila, just like that, your ipod is telling you how long you have been running, your pace and distance. A playlist can be synced in and at any time you can press a button and find out all your details. I seriously love it! Because I am nerdy like that I guess. You can then download all of your info onto Nike's running community and track your progress and share information and I'm sure a lot of other things I'm unaware of at the moment. But one thing I do know about is I was able to create a little running character and I have added her to my sidebar. She will tell you if I've run today and my distance. Even if no one ever checks her out, I feel this will help keep me accountable and motivated. And today? Today, I ran 2.49 miles. Can I really say I "ran" even though there is still a lot of walking in there? I'm going to say yes because I have now reached a point where I am running more than I am walking. It is very exciting.

12 comments:

Suz said...

I am so impressed with your progress. I am convinced that the right shoes make all the difference. When I started running I found out that you should only wear your running shoes for about 500 miles. Happy running! I'm excited to track your progress.

michele said...

way to go! and yes you can call it running even if there is walking involved.

Tiffany said...

You are inspiring me. I am so proud of you! And I love the little funky widget girl dancing on your screen. She's a kick!

katie said...

That Nike+ thing may just get me a little interested in thinking about running. Guess it could work for a walker too, right? Very cool.

Emily said...

That's so great! I'm glad you're learning to run. I started the Couch to 5K last year at one point but, uh, mumble mumble... shuffling feet... you get the idea.

KimmyGoat said...

Good for you, Alyssa!

Do you wear sunglasses like your Mini Me? How do they stay on your head?

Soul-Fusion said...

Katie, yes the Nike+ works for walking (you since that is what most of my "running" is these days).
And KimmyGoat, I do wear sunglasses when I run outside because my eyes are crazy sensitive to the sun (and I have enough crows feet already thanks to genetics) so I wear pair of Nike sport sunglasses I bought ages ago when I played ultimate frisbee. My only complaint is that for some reason I decided they look a little lesbian-ish . . . but they stay put really well and do not slide down my nose - even with lots of sweating!

Soul-Fusion said...

one more thing, I should add that I do NOT run in just a sports bra. Sadly, long gone are my abs of steel so hopefully the running will help tame them as well!

lizzie said...

wow. i am impressed. sometimes i think i might run one day. but then i think again. maybe one day...

Jill said...

Hi, I am one of your readers from Australia. I was happy to hear that you took the time to get some decent running shoes. I used to buy my shoes based on their color and style (and if they were on sale of course) but I have recently discovered the value of the right shoe. I haven't been running for awhile and after reading your post I am going to start up again tomorrow!

Mary said...

I hear running is quite addicting -- look at Suz! I love my Asics, but I really only power walk.

Ah, to run through the streets of New York though. The smells, the sights...sigh.

Vanessa The Scientist said...

Congrats on the running progress! I know what you mean about the salesperson convincing you to buy a much bigger shoe...and I later learned that when you start really logging some serious distance, your feet begin to swell. Like, seriously get huge! Keep that in mind if/when you start getting to urge to do marathons. Good luck with the 5K. Go get 'em!

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