For the month of January I’m running a new series: Losing Weight on a Budget. If you’re just joining me, I encourage you to head to the Series Page to catch up on the last couple posts you’ve missed to learn more what this is all about. Then, come back and read today’s post!
In my last post in this series, I shared several different workout ideas for busy people. I truly do believe that there are many avenues to fitness and that anything that gets you moving is a good thing. My personal favorite form of exercise is running and I really contemplated if I should do a running-only post for this series. Would it seem too exclusive? What about people that can’t run? Hate running?
Ultimately I decided I wanted to take the risk and share my story about how running has changed my life because it’s something that’s important to me. I hope that some of you will connect with and appreciate what I have to say. If you prefer walking, CrossFit, weight training, elliptical, or Pilates – that’s great. Please don’t take today’s post as saying that I feel running is better than any of these options for you. I will say, there is nothing that empowers and drives me like running!
How I Found Running (or how it found me)
I never did track in high school, or athletics of any sort. I loathed when we had to run a mile for our physical fitness testing.
But when I headed off to college, I realized I needed to start some sort of exercise to stay in shape. I decided to take up running and even took a running class (hey, it gave me 2 credits and filled an elective!). At some point, I saw an announcement for a 5K – the St. Patty’s Day Dash – and signed up on a whim. By myself. I knew no one who was doing this race, and in fact, I don’t even think I told many people or invited anyone along.
Running that race was amazing. I remember running the streets of Seattle with all these people who were laughing and having such a good time and I started feeling very emotional. I couldn’t place why I felt that way at the time, but in hindsight, maybe it was because I was beginning to discover something that would have a big impact on my life. That summer, I went on to run a couple of 10Ks. I was officially hooked!
A few years later in 2003, I met a couple amazing coworkers (Kim and Heather) who encouraged me to do a half marathon (13.1 miles, people!). The idea sounded crazy to me – the longest distance I’d ever run up until that point had been the 10K (6.2 miles) – this was more than double. But their invitation also presented an opportunity for me to push myself in a new way and complete something I never thought I could. I signed up, and together we began training for it.
Crossing the finish line of my first half marathon was nothing short of overwhelming! I had done it – and there was a medal around my neck to prove it! I began to wonder – what other things in life had I not completed – only because I’d never tried? Six months later, Kim and I crossed the finish line of our first full distance marathon (26.2). That fall, I completed my second full marathon (the picture at the top of this section is me completing that event!).
In the past few years, I’d definitely lost my groove. I had decided to take a bit of a break from running, but I never replaced it with anything else. As you might have imagined, the pounds crept on. What ended up reversing this process was rediscovering my love of running.
At first, it was so difficult for me to acknowledge how badly I’d let myself go. I used to run 8-milers practically in my sleep, and now it was a real challenge to even run/walk 2 miles. I decided once again, I needed a goal. This time, I signed up for the Sound to Narrows 12K – a race I’d run 3 times before, but in younger, fitter days.
Not only was I able to complete the entire 7.6 miles without stopping last June (I finished in 1:21, an average pace of 10:56 min/mile), I’d managed to lose 10 pounds.I decided at this point that I was ready for another sizable goal and I signed up for the 2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon at where else? Disneyland! on January 18, 2015.
Along the way, I decided to run a 5K and I PR’d, in 26:24! I finished #112 out of 850+ runners and I believe I was in the top 10-15 females for my age group! I ran the 5K 20 pounds lighter than I was at Sound to Narrows. I do believe dropping the weight plus months of consistent training helped contribute to my average 8:30/min 5K pace. As an added bonus, my son WON the Kid’s Dash! He’s now talking about wanting to run a 5K with mommy! This makes me so happy!
As for the Star Wars Half Marathon that took place yesterday?
I made a Personal Record (PR), finishing in 2:06:41. People, that’s a better time than I got running this distance 10 years ago, before kids. It IS possible to improve over time like this. I also finished 1258 out of 10374 runners and 352 out of 5974 females. It’s always amazing when you see your hard work pay off in a such a tangible way like running a race!
The Benefits I’ve Seen from Running
Now that you know my story, I thought I’d share some of the benefits and reasons why I personally choose to run.
- It helps me lose weight. Running burns mad calories! I burn roughly 110 calories for every mile I run and that tends to take me somewhere between 9 – 9:30 minutes. I’d be hard pressed to find many other cardio activities that give me that kind of burn.
- It’s given me something other than my weight to focus on. Just watching a number on a scale can get monotonous…or frustrating! I love having running goals and tracking my performance. It gives me something else to “gnaw” on.
- It clears my mind. I love starting the day with a run, it gets blood pumping to my brain and I often find my best ideas come when I run or just after.
- It helps me relax. I find I can more deeply relax in the hours following a run. I love the way my body feels after I know I’ve pushed it hard, and now it’s time to rest.
- It challenges me to push myself. I find that there are so many different ways I can push myself with running. I can try for a difficult distance. I can try for a very fast speed. I can attempt to PR at a race.
- It has given me motivation to maintain my weight loss. Now that I am lighter and faster, I have some new running goals for myself! I initially set a goal to break an 8-minute mile in 2015, but…
Apparently I didn’t set the bar high enough! I clocked a 7:51 mile the first week in January. Crazy, considering I used to consider myself a slow runner and that I only just got back into consistently running in 2014! I’m beginning to change my opinion about that and my ability and believe I’m nowhere near my potential. My new goal? To beat a 7-minute mile in 2015!
While these are just a few of the benefits I’ve personally seen, but ask another runner, you’re sure to get even more answers!
My Running Workout Ideas
Contrary to popular belief, running does not have to be the same distance or effort every time! I regularly change up my pace, route, running location, distance, and more.
Here are a just a few of the workouts I’ve done:
- I have standard 5K, 4 mile, 6 mile, and 8 mile routes that I run from my house.
- I run the “track” around my house. I like to run 2-3 miles this way, and focus on speed.
- I run around an actual track. I like to sprint down the straight parts and walk around the curves.
- I have done a hill repeat workout where I sprint up a hill and then walk back down. Repeat several times.
- I have run around a track carrying a slam ball and then thrown the ball across the middle.
- I have run the track during my son’s soccer practices.
- I have run on a treadmill while on vacation (Honolulu, Alabama, Oregon, Vancouver, and NYC immediately come to mind).
- I have run outside while on vacation. A couple of my most scenic runs have been in Jackson Hole, Wyoming; Cody, Wyoming; Colorado Springs, Colorado; Central Park, New York City; and Austin, Texas.
- I have combined running intervals with strength training. I might run a few minutes, do a few wall balls, and repeat four times.
- I have focused on negative splits where I try to run each mile progressively faster than the last for 3-4 miles.
On any given week, I may run 20-25 miles by combining these workouts in a number of ways. I also incorporate strength training and cross training into my week (maybe 2-3 additional workouts).
If you haven’t gotten the idea by now, I LOVE RUNNING! I could talk about it for hours because it’s just a huge part of my life. The other awesome thing? It’s a pretty cheap sport. Just get yourself a nice pair of shoes (really, don’t skip this – check out my post on 6 Must Have Running Items for more information), but from there? You can just head out your door whenever you please.
Still haven’t convinced you to run? Make sure to check out my post on Workout Ideas for Busy People for more ideas that you might find useful for starting an exercise routine.
Now it’s your turn: do you consider yourself a runner? Want to be one, but not sure where to start? Any questions you have for me that I may help you answer?