I started to run back in high school, a time where it was normal to be involved with three sports simultaneously. At that time I thought I was invincible; pounding out miles upon miles each day and each week, never really wanting to take a break. The coach suggested a two week break in between seasons but I had found my crutch or my escape from daily stress (because being a high school is indeed stressful) and that was exercise, or more importantly – running.
My knees started hurting but I pushed through. Maybe if I ran more and ate less, it would be better. Nope, the knee issues remained. When I got into college, I continued my “cross country training” at least for the first few quarters of college. Once I realized I’m not much of my own coach, the elliptical became my new best friend and I found myself participating in the typical “sorority workout” – elliptical + abs. Thank goodness I did pledge a sorority or I’d feel a little terrible calling it that. Well, there are worse things people could say but I digress.
I slacked off on the speed work, adequate cross training and rest, and every once in a blue moon massaged my sore muscles out with the foam roller. I began signing up for half marathons with very minimal training and still decided to push my own pace. Ok, not a problem for a 19-21 year old, right?
In all truth, I run for me as much as I run for the swag and the thrill of running in a group. Tiffany’s at the finish? Why thank you.
Fast forward to today and even though I’ve increased my strength training at the gym and speed workouts by trying to keep up with my friend who did happen to run cross country in college, I thought I was doing a dandy job. That is until my legs started to cramp up and ache and feel as though I’d just run a marathon and could not run any more. (I’m sure most could reply with a resounding “duh, no wonder you are hurt right now.”)
The thing is, I’ve been reading Runner’s World for years. Ok, let me re-phrase that – I’ve been subscribing to running magazines and glossing through the pages to see what they say on nutrition (sometimes taking their advice) and mostly reading the juicy stuff about races and looking at all the pictures. Coffee improves performance and is good for you? Ok. Making red velvet cupcakes with beets? Sounds interesting. As for the workout recommendations? The stretching and core exercises? Almost more important than I would admit to and each time I saw one, I flipped to the next page, unsure if I could carry it out on my own; hold myself accountable.
I never (and still don’t) understand how some runners can run for miles every day without feeling the pain or contracting shin splints (yes, it’s like a disease). The 14-year old who has already finished a marathon on all seven continents? How college students compete throughout their four years, sometimes balancing Dean’s lists and academic scholarships and a social life. I call them bionic, a term I wish I could call myself sometimes. I guess it’s a little bit of envy or jealousy that comes out and yes, I know we are all different, but the feelings are still there.
I’d like to say a majority of people who tell me (I’m just talking about me, not stereotyping the public) to cross train with swimming or cycling are not runners. They don’t know or appreciate the thrill of the open road, the ability to explore new territory, or revisit the old. I could map out a run in any part of my home town, just to re-visit the funky houses, the known turns, and even the deadly hills. But, to preserve this love for the road? Yes, I guess I could start to pay attention to training advice.
I’ve always wanted to run a marathon and even finish a Ironman triathlon.
Today I’m not sure if that’s possible between my life in the city and nagging injuries, but there may be a time in the future; a time where I can dedicate my time to training, strength, and recovering. Then I might be able to train with a few other people and I guess I could mature enough to listen to expert’s advice as well.
So, for now I go back to the drawing board. I actually start to pay attention to training advice, I actually read the magazine articles, and I learn how to train from scratch.
There will be times for base work, speed work, stretching, foam rolling, cross-training, and rest, no matter the difficulty in the concrete jungle.