Tuesday, November 20, 2012

On starting to run, and running faster

Yesterday and today were very hard days for me! I felt like I was constantly fighting a binge, and it was making me crazy. I managed not to binge, but I wanted to figure out what was going on so that I could stop the urge. I thought about the past couple of days, and then it was glaringly obvious: I didn't have any grapes in the house, and I was trying not to buy more because they're SO expensive right now.

I ran out of grapes a couple of days ago, and decided to try having other fruit instead--namely, apples. I missed the grapes very much, but figured I would live without them ;)  But apparently, the grapes are the magical food I need to keep me from bingeing!

After dinner, I went to Kroger and bought three bags of the rare diamonds grapes at $2.49/lb. Jerry told me, "I don't care if they're $20 a pound, they help you stay on track--get them!" Came home, ate a bowl of them, and instantly felt a million times better. Urge to binge? Gone.

As of today, I am 73 days binge-free :)


Today I had three miles at an easy pace on the schedule. I brought my new handheld water bottle with me, just to see how it feels in my hand while running. I was tempted to fill it with hot tea to keep me warm out there--it was a cold morning!

I ran at a pace that felt comfortable, and didn't look at my Garmin the entire time. I was impressed with the water bottle--it wasn't annoying to hold at all, and it didn't feel heavy. I think if it held any more water it would feel heavy, but at 10.5 oz., it was perfect. It was easy to open the spout with my teeth (there is a soft cushion on the spout, so you don't break your teeth), and easy to push closed. I'm very happy with the bottle, which is good, because I couldn't find any info about returns on the website (I checked before ordering).
I've been asked quite a bit recently about getting faster, and what kind of plan I'm following to accomplish that. I definitely have some thoughts on it. Everything I'm about to write is completely from my own experience, and we all know that I'm not a professional; so if you're looking for "real" advice on getting faster, I would contact a running coach. But I will share what worked for me, and what I think of it.

When I first started running, I didn't know anything at all about interval training, tempo runs, splits, fartleks, or even the number of meters on a track. Basically, I just wanted to be able to run a 5K race, which I learned was 3.1 miles. So I started by walking, and then throwing in a little running. You can read the whole story on my running page. The Couch to 5K program was too hard for me, so I did my own thing.

By doing my own thing, I was able to reach a 5K distance pretty quickly (within a couple of months). Once I was able to run 5K, I wanted to get faster. And like I said, I knew nothing about speed work, so I (again) did my own thing:

I ran faster.

I learned that to be a faster runner, I had to run faster. Is that clear as mud? Good. Basically, I ran 3.1 miles three times per week; and each time I ran it, I tried to run it a little faster than the time before.

That's it!

I didn't do intervals, I didn't run repeats on the track, I didn't do tempo runs, or any of that. I just tried to run a little faster each time, since I was running the same distance each time.

Fast forward a year, after I'd been studying up on running and reading everything I could get my hands on, I decided to try to PR at 10K by following a real running plan, and doing all the speed work on the plan. I followed it to the tee, and was sure I was going to PR that race. Then I ran the race, and missed a PR by about 11 seconds. I couldn't understand it, because I actually trained for a PR.
The race I busted my ass for, but didn't PR :(
This whole past year was spent marathon training, and speed work went right out the window. I was just trying to make it through the uber-long runs, and didn't have the energy to try and get faster. After the marathon, I put together Hal Higdon's running plan with recommended training paces, and decided to follow it to hopefully get faster.

However, I was so excited to be running shorter distances, that I decided to push the envelope, and just run fast--not paying attention to what the "recommended" paces were. And I went back to the basics of when I was a beginner, just running to try and get faster. I started running every run faster, in order to be faster. I've been running faster than my recommended paces, but it's working really well! I've seen HUGE improvements on my pace in just a month's time.
My sub-26 goal for 5K after 2 1/2 years of trying!
So, while a real running coach would tell me to do intervals at x:xx pace for y distance, and a tempo run at a another carefully calculated pace, etc., I've learned that my body does best when I do things my way. To get faster, I've simply been running faster. Pushing myself a little, and sometimes a lot, and then seeing the results.

But what about injury? I've always read that if you push too much, you'll get injured. Well, the only times I've been injured were during marathon training, when I was running slowly, over long distances. Now that I'm doing shorter distances, I think my body can handle the fact that I'm running faster.

So my (unqualified) advice for a beginner would be to pick a distance (even if it's just once a week) to try and run it a little faster than you did before.


Since I'm on the subject of how I got into running, I typed out a generalized plan of exactly how I started running. I hated running at first, and I especially hated the C25K program because of the intervals. After running for a minute or two, I would start the walking segment and DREAD hearing the beep of my Garmin telling me to start running again. So I did my own thing, and this plan that I typed out is pretty much what I did:

You can click it to enlarge, or here is a link to the PDF for printing, if that helps. The R is for Run, and the W is for Walk. The numbers are minutes:seconds. So on Day 1, you would run for 30 seconds, then walk for 29 minutes and 30 seconds. Sounds ridiculous, but it worked for me!

I think the reason that this was helpful to me was that I could just run for x amount of time, then walk and be done. I didn't have to run, walk, run, walk, etc. Mentally, I just said, "Okay, you just have to run for two minutes--you can do ANYTHING for just two minutes. After that two minutes, you can walk the rest of the way." That is how I stuck with it.
The first few weeks progressed really slowly (on the first day, I ran about 30 seconds at a 14ish minute mile pace). But then as I was able to run farther, I was able to progress much faster. Going from one minute to two minutes is a much bigger deal than going from 24 minutes to 28 minutes, because you're literally doubling your running time when you jump from 1 to 2 minutes. I hope I'm explaining this well ;)

Anyway, this kind of plan worked for me, so maybe it will help someone else as well. Feel free to use it how you wish. One thing that I can't stress enough is that if it feels too hard, just run even slower. You might be able to walk faster than your running pace, but you can work on speed after you've built up the distance.

I posted this stuff now, because I have some plans in my head to host a virtual 5K at the end of January--my 31st birthday is on January 25th, and I thought for 31, how fun would be to host a 3.1 mile run? ;) I will post details on that later (once I figure them out) but this way, if you'd like to participate, you have time to prepare!

Whew, this was a long post!

68 comments:

  1. Yay a 5k!! I'm excited!! (I never EVER thought that I would utter those words...)

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  2. I love the idea of a virtual 5k! I can barely run for 30 sec. but will try your running schedule and see if I can build that up. :) Thanks so much for your daily posts, I find myself watching Twitter waiting to read what you have to say before going to bed!

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    1. If 30 seconds feels too hard, then just slow your pace. I would be that almost anyone is capable of running 30 seconds, if the pace is slow enough. You can do it!!

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  3. I busted out laughing when you called grapes "rare diamonds"! I feel the same way!

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    1. Hahaha, it's even worse when my kids ask me for some grapes. "Um, how about an apple instead? Or a banana? Or candy?" ;)

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  4. very informative post! I have tried running the same distance every time and some days I end up faster than the day before, other times slower. I don't know how to regulate my pace or to just go faster by pushing myself.

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    1. I think it also depends on what kind of day you're having. Some days, a 10:30/mi pace feels super hard, and others, it feels like I'm crawling along. But having a goal to work toward (trying to beat your previous time) helps push you a little harder, I think :)

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  5. Count me in for the virtual 5K!

    And hey, if the "diamond grapes" help you from going on a binge, I'd say the $2.49 a pound is well worth it in the end.

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    1. I agree--it's hard to spend that kind of money when I go through grapes so fast, but I've certainly been saving money by not bingeing ;)

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  6. interesting...I followed the c 2 5k program and it worked for me but I didn't do it on the days suggested- some weeks I did more spinning. I ran my first "official" 5K last Friday night and it was 34:06 (which is 4 minutes faster than any time while prepping- the only thing I can think of is the pace of everyone else).

    As for the grapes- I'm wondering if that's my problem. I have had the worst sweet tooth lately and while I haven't binged I definitely have not curtailed it like I should and feel very blech. Need to get back on track with that and that apparently means shelling out the dough for the pricey fruit...

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    1. Some people LOVE the C25K program, and it really seems to be a great program--but it just wasn't the right one for me. Congrats on your 5K!! That's a fantastic time, especially for your first :)

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  7. The virtual 5k is such a great idea!!! I'm (slowly) working on running and am working towards a goal to run 5k. C25k was too hard for me and I followed your advice and run as far as I can then walk the rest. My last distance was a whole 1.5 kilometers!!! Had I known I was close to a mile I might have kept going! (Maybe). To run a mile and to run a 5k are on my bucket list and you have been so inspiring in the past year that I've been losing weight and following you and I couldn't think of a better race to run than 'with' you! My 34th birthday is only 6 days before yours ;)

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    1. Congrats on your improvement!! If you stick with it, I bet you can be running 5K by your birthday :)

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  8. Hi Katie, this is my first time commenting, but I've been reading your blog everyday for almost two years. I love that you post everyday and I always look forward to what you're going to talk about! I have about 40 lbs that I want to lose, I lost 20 in 2010, but I have since gained it back :( I would love to start running but I am a little overwhelmed and feel that I don't have the time to dedicate to it. However, your running plan that you posted today looks so simple and easy to follow, that it really makes me feel like I could start running and be successful with it. You are a great inspiration! I'll let you know how it goes.

    Dominique

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    1. I would love to hear how it goes! It took me a long time to stop *hating* running, and to actually feel like I was hooked on it; but now, I can't imagine NOT doing it! It's improved my life in so many ways, and I would love for other people to feel that, too.

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  9. And THIS post is EXACTLY why I love reading your blog! :) I read faithfully everyday, and I always find it funny how much you and I think alike! To run faster you simply run faster! It actually makes sense to me! And I love your running plan (especially the "you can do anything for 2 minutes") - that's exactly how I think! So - I'm going to print out your running plan, and try to follow that! Love the new font btw! And congrats on avoiding a binge! :)

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    1. I'm glad it made sense--I knew what I was TRYING to say, but it was hard to explain :)

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  10. Do you have aldi near you? They generally have really cheap produce prices...also, the mexican grocery stores as well!

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    1. I didn't even think to check Aldi for grapes! I will have to do that. Thanks for the suggestion :)

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  11. How exciting a virtual 5k. Sounds like so much fun. It will give me something to work for.

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  12. An excellant post. I have never 'ran' & all I do is WATP or treadmill. But I will try your schedule & see if I can do it--fingers crossed.
    I love grapes too & they are costly here as well.

    PS:
    In India Amazon goes by "Junglee.com"(weird as Junglee means wild) I tried to look for the scale but all I could find was this

    http://www.junglee.com/Taylor-Digital-Scale-Meas-Cup/dp/B002E1AVTI/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1353465131&sr=1-2-fkmr0

    I didnt look for the tea maker though.

    Is it correct that, it (Taylor scales)shows
    you food nutrtion value as well?
    Xo
    Z

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    1. Some of the scales show nutrition info as well, but it depends on the model. I like it to be pretty basic, so I chose one without the nutrition info database. I just look it up myself, based on the weight of the food I'm eating.

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  13. Oh your birthday is 3 days before mine :) I turn 32 on the 28th! I'm totally in for a virtual 5k :) Can't wait! I love that you plan for you. Thanks for sharing your plan and your life

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    1. It's probably going to be a cold one, but I think it'll be fun to do a virtual 5K :)

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  14. OK - if this is a duplicate, please feel free to delete it. The blog or WWW or something ate my last comment. :)

    I am super excited about your running plan and the virtual 5k idea! I hope to join in if I can get my silly shin problems under control. So annoying to be sidelined by something that is supposed to be so treatable/avoidable!

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    1. Glad you're interested! I'll have a sign up soon. I hope that your shins cooperate!

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  15. I also paid $2.49/lb for grapes today at Meijer. Whole Foods price of grapes isn't much more than that.

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    1. I wish I loved bananas; they are always cheap! But naturally, I'd be drawn to the most expensive fruit in the grocery store right now...

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  16. My 5 year anniversary is Jan. 25 and I've been trying to find ways to get Josh to work out with me...maybe I should just tell him the only anniversary present I want is for us to train to run together!

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    1. That would be fun--train together, then run your 5K that morning, and celebrate with a nice, well-deserved dessert or drink that night! :)

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  17. virtual 5k... love that idea! I had my 5th baby 6 weeks ago and it's time to get my but in gear and do something. I know I get too comfortable with the "I just had a baby" excuse and before I know it Baby is 1 year old and I'm still fat. Can't wait to hear more details about this 5k idea.

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  18. Jerry is so wonderful! I love how supportive he is.

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    1. He really is--I'm lucky to have his support, because sometimes, I really don't think I could do it on my own!

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  19. My 34th birthday is close to yours...Feb 1st! I hope to be running 1 or even 2 miles straight by then. I was almost up to a mile but then I didn't work out for like 6 weeks because I was sick for over a month...so I'm back at it now. I wish I were excited about birthdays but I guess that's what happens once you turn 30! I want to try out one of those water bottles too...I always get thirsty even just walking a few miles.

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    1. I am certain you could be running at LEAST 2 miles by your birthday--if not a 5K! It just takes some commitment and hard work. (I'm not at all excited about being in my 30's now, either!)

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  20. You should definitely host a 5K! It'd be the perfect kick in the butt I need to get running. Especially when it's the thing I dread the most..

    And congrats on not bingeing! You are such an inspiration to me. :)

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    1. Thanks! The binge-free streak has been hard, but I'm feeling very determined to beat my last streak (one year). :)

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  21. Glad you got some grapes at home again! Have you ever put them in the freezer? Just pull them off the stems and put in a ziploc, and in to the freezer. They are so good to eat that way, and last longer in your mouth!

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    1. My kids love frozen grapes, and I used to eat them that way as well. I'm going to throw some in the freezer today!

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  22. Have you had any running injuries? I recently injured my IT band, had to take a couple weeks off and am really worried that it will happen again. I plan to do more stretching, a better warm-up and cool-down and foam rolling because being injured and forced into a break is no fun!

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    1. Like I said in the post, the only injuries I had were my knees during marathon training--and it happened once my mileage went up above 15 or so miles at a time. My body likes shorter distances :)

      Taking a break from running for a couple of weeks is MUCH better than trying to run through the pain. I've done it both ways, and would never recommend running through the pain to anyone! Hope you heal fast.

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  23. Katie - great post. I like the plan you put together for new runners(for what you did). I think it makes great sense. I did something similar when I started running. I could not do the walk/run/walk etc so I just ran for a period of time and finished out my walk like you suggested. I completely agree that it helps keep me coming back day to day until I was finally just running the whole time. Very good advice!

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    1. Good to hear! I was just miserable with the intervals on C25K, so this worked out much better. I hope it helps someone else, as well!

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    1. Of course! I will have a sign up soon.

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  25. When I first attempted running 3 summers ago, I started with the couch to 5k with some coworkers. I dreaded every run an each week when then intervals got longer I would hate it even more.I hated having to stop after a couple minutes of running because my legs would just tighten right up during the walking portions. I actually injured my ankel that summer and slowly ended up quitting the couch to 5k.
    It wasn't until this past spring that I realized it was the couch to 5k that made me hate running and not the actually activity of running. While my coworkers did the intervals, I just ran continuously until I couldn't run anymore. I started off running about 5-10 minutes at a time and each week I just added more and more time. I've now ran 4 5k's this year and now I'm focusing on running faster :)

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    1. That sounds a lot like what I did. I really disliked the intervals, and doing all the running in one shot helped me (at least mentally). Congrats on your races!

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  26. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS POST. I struggle so much with walk/run intervals. I think I can actually stick with this. Thanks again!

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    1. You're welcome--let me know how it goes!

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  27. Looking forward to more on your 5K - I'd love to do it!

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    1. Are you going to send us all a medal? Haha! :)

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  28. Yay for 73 days!! Way to fight through the urges and find your healthy fix :)
    I'm in for a 5k! I also turn 34 in January! And sadly, I just had to do the math to figure out how old I am.

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    1. Isn't it awful when you can remember your age? I used to make fun of my mom when she couldn't remember, and then somewhere in my mid-20's, I couldn't remember either! ;)

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  29. I type this comment as I eat some grapes lol. I was wondering on the running chart, did you usually run it everyother day or three days in a row then rest or how did you work in the three runs a week? Also when you followed this chart did you do any other exercises as well throughout the week or did you just stick to this for your exercise?

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    1. I would run whenever I could fit it in during the week, but ideally, you'd want to have a rest day in between each of those run days. M-W-F would be perfect, or T-Th-S.

      I didn't actually follow this chart, because I didn't make the chart until a couple of days ago :) But I made it based on how I started out as a runner (I didn't follow a plan at the time).

      I didn't start exercising at all until I'd lost about 60 pounds; after that, I started walking/running three days per week. I *should* have included strength training, but I didn't. I just ran 3x/week.

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  30. I have been binging lately. As desperately as I want to lose these last 5lbs, I can't stop eating sweets. and now that the holiday season is upon us, I don't see it ending any time soon. :-(

    I love seeing that your easy pace is in the 9:30's! Great job!!!

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    1. Thanks!! Sweets are my downfall, too. I think maybe that's why the grapes help so much?

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  31. Thank you so much for posting this. This is exactly what I needed today. For some reason unknown to me, I decided I wanted to run a 5k without stopping. Did I mention I think the only reason someone should run is if they are getting chased? :-) I hired a coach that did her own version of couch to 5k. It was awesome and I loved the sense of accomplishment.

    I have recently done 3 different 5k's and I always feel so bad afterwards because my times are usually 43 - 45 mins. When I decided I needed to run faster and see all the speed drills etc I was overwhelmed. I just want to run faster, keep improving and bring the joy back to running.

    Thanks for reminding me to just keep it simple and listen to what is best for me! You are so inspiring - great job on your "new" life :-)

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  32. I tried something similar, but I didn't use time. I ran the same route each time and would try to make it one driveway further each time before walking and then start running again at a certain point and again try to make it one more driveway, or to the next tree. I didn't always make it further each time, but I made sure not to run for less distance. The walking in between became shorter too.

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  33. Love the idea of a "virtual 5K. I need something to train for again! I look forward to trying your training program. :) Thanks!!

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  34. Thank you for this post! I've been trying to improve my time, but keep thinking about what I'm supposed to do. I love that you found what worked for you instead of just following the Couch to 5k plan. I did it and didn't mind it, but when it jumped from a 20 minute to 30 min run, I freaked out. Then the 30 min to a 45 minute run... and they finally added a 60 minute run to the plan. I couldn't make jumps like that, so after 30 minutes, I just increased it by 1 minute each time I ran, until I made it up to 60 minutes. It just seemed so much more manageable (mentally, anyway) to do it that way.

    Your thought processes (and running mind games!) are very much like mine, so I think doing something like you did to improve your 5k time would work for me.

    Similarly, do you have something in particular you did to transition from a 5k to a 10k. I really loved this post and am bookmarking it! Thank you, Katie!
    Cheers~

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  35. Katie,
    Thank you so much for this post! I tried the C25K program, and like you I dreaded the beep of my watch saying it was time to run again. And during my first (my naturally more athletic and in better shape) sister joined me, the last thing i decided i wanted to hear was her saying "you can do it." when all i wanted to do was stop! haaha, let's just say cheery person and me being cranky don't mix well.
    I just did the first day of your plan and rocked it! I'm so excited and quite honestly in awe that in just this short amount of time i will be doing a 5K!

    Can't wait for more info on the virtual 5K.

    Shawntel
    http://www.becomingmybestselfbefore25.blogspot.com/

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  36. What does "PR" mean? I can't seem to find it anywhere. I was thinking "pre-qualify" but that doesn't match...??

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    1. It means "personal record" or a personal best time for a particular race :)

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I'd love to hear from you! (Sorry about the word verification... the spam comments were just ridiculous!)