Monday, February 3, 2014

{meet my guest} THE JESSICA L BLOG | RUNNING 101

Hi there, lovely! If you are tuning in for the first time, welcome! If you're already familiar with All My Happy Endings, then you might know that I've just had a baby. On the heels of that, I'm taking a few days off to recover and become acquainted with my new sweetie. In the interim, however, I'm hosting some truly amazing bloggers to keep the crickets at bay.

First off, meet Jessica from the Jessica L Blog. I asked Jessica to share with us her knowledge of running and how to get started if you're new to the sport, or otherwise aspire to be. And don't be fooled, she's no stranger to the enjoyment of food and wine! Please love on her a little and leave a comment below.

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First off, let me start with this standard disclaimer: I am not a certified trainer or nutritionist, nor am I a professional runner. I am your "average" runner, whatever that means, and I have experience running both in the military and on my own while training for races or just running because I love to run. When I refer to runners, I mean the person that just recently started running- today maybe?- to anybody that likes to run regularly- be it once a week- to the person who has been running for at least a year. If you walk-run, don't be mistaken: you're a runner. As with anything in life, there is no guarantee that if you do everything right, you won't get injured. But you can decrease your chances significantly, if you heed the following principles of injury prevention.


According to Runner's World "79 percent of runners are sidelined each year". That's about 8 out of 10 people who run. While that number doesn't differentiate between beginning runners, average runners, and runners who log more than 100 miles a week, it's almost safe to assume that it includes anybody who considered themselves to be a runner. I've met people in the military and in running circles who have been injured due to running, who continue to be injured because they continue to run or just never  received the proper medical treatment for it, and who have had injuries so bad that they were told they could never run again. Ouch! I couldn't imagine being told that I will never be able to lace up my running shoes and just go for a run. It would break my heart, and I know that those who have heard those words have had to come to terms with that stark reality.

So what are the time-honored practices and habits for runners who have never been injured according to the average runner, experts, and elite runners (Think Ryan Hall who has been declared the fastest American.)- and myself? I am fortunate to have never been injured, but I am getting older, don't consider myself to have "natural" running abilities, and don't have the runner's body type. So it's important for me to be very careful when I start training for races. 

1. Listen to your body. This is definitely the one thing that I've heard and read from elite/professional runners, experts, and physicians. Your body sends you signals that it has been stressed beyond its threshold. If you are feeling pain, stop running and see a doctor. While some people don't actually feel the injury until after a run or race is over, you will feel the pain eventually. Pain means something is wrong and you should go get checked. You don't need to be a hero, and you're not showing weakness if you admit that you are hurting and can't take it anymore. What you are doing is saving your health and future ability to continue to run. 

2. Consult your doctor before you run and as you run. This is really important for "beginning" runners, as in, you've never run before, have a lot of questions, and/or you just started running on your own very recently (within the last 2 to 3 months). Did you get cleared by your doctor first before you started running? Running is a high impact sport and not everyone, at least right away, is primed to just start running. Even though human beings were genetically made to run, if you've only walked before, you might want to think about gradually easing into running, by doing intervals of walking and then running.  Here is a good walk-run program to start. Also, as you continue to run, if you are otherwise generally in good health, at least get an annual check-up once a year just to make sure you are still healthy. 

3. Eat a diet consisting of natural, unprocessed foods. While runners are known to be able to eat more than sedentary people or those who do not run, this isn't always completely true. When I was in my 20's, this might have been the case for me. But was I at my optimal health or did I miss a chance at peak performance because of my overindulgent diet? I will never know the answer, but I do notice that when I eat healthier now, I feel better. Every fad diet, sports physician, medical journal, etcetera appears to focus on one common theme: that is, to eat a diet consisting mostly of vegetables, fruits, lean protein (beef, chicken, fish, etc.), whole grains, and healthy fats. The consumption of meats, dairy, and grains is debatable depending on whether you're speaking to a vegan, vegetarian, paleo convert, or whatnot. The most important premise, as you may have noticed, is that a healthy diet consists of whole food that hasn't been created and then packaged, which is the diet so many of us have become accustomed to. It's important to remember that we are all different, and that different things work for different people. But by eating natural, unprocessed foods at least 80-90% of the time, you can easily maintain a healthy weight and provide your body with the nutrients it needs to fuel your runs and recover properly.


4. Do a bit of research and consult the professionals before you start running, as you run, and before you start training for races. Here are some good articles that I've consulted to help me on my journey: 10 Tips for Beginning Runners, The 10 Laws of Injury Prevention, Nutrition Guide for RunnersAm I Overtraining? . You can also contact me and ask me questions directly, however I'm going to tell you what has worked for me and what I've seen work for others- and then tell you to make sure that you also do your research.

5. If you are overweight or outside of a healthy weight range for your body type, you run a greater risk of injuring yourself when running. No, this doesn't mean that you should stop running altogether. I've seen runners of all body types cross the finish line in a marathon, and weight doesn't tell the whole story of fitness or health. Even I, at certain points in my life, could have been considered to be overweight depending on which charts I looked at. However, when you consider the force of your entire body weight hitting the ground and then coming back up at you, it makes sense that if you weigh less, that this impact is less detrimental to your joints, bones, and muscles. In the military, I've seen quite a few knee injuries resulting from sports activities which are attributed to people who are out of body composition standards and who are carrying extra weight around. There is also a difference between healthy weight, ideal weight, and "racing" weight, and if you want to minimize your risk of injury, getting to your healthy weight range is a good start. Yes, running is a good way to get there. Again, proceed with caution depending on your own health and fitness level. 

6. Increase effort and distance slowly. Some of us want to run faster. Some of us want to run farther. Either way, we should do it wisely, and every runner's ability to increase distance and speed is, again, different. Most trainers advocate the 10 percent rule. If you've been running 15 miles a week, and decide to increase your mileage to 30 miles a week without a slow progression towards that mileage, you could be setting yourself up for injury. 

7. Warm up before runs and stretch after runs. Experts and runners alike debate about how this should be done, but I've learned through experience that I perform better, am less sore, and am less prone to feeling the onset of injury when I warmup before any runs and then stretch properly when I'm finished. If you don't know how you should go about doing this here are a few articles to give you ideas: Warmups for Runners and Key Stretches for Runners.

8. Keep a training and food journal. This is one of the most important habits I developed this past summer. The value of having something to look back on to see where you succeeded and may have failed cannot be overstated. I've always been an intuitive runner, even when in training mode for a half marathon or marathon. These last 20 weeks have been the only time that I've consistently trained and followed a training plan. It was in these last 20 weeks that I've also learned a lot about what I am now telling you. Had I kept a log of miles run in the past, I would have discovered my "threshold", which is around 35-39 miles. Apparently, I'm convinced that I've never run more than that amount in any given week in my past because it was when I got to the two weeks of that mileage, that I began to feel a weakness or tenderness in my right hamstring, and it lingered there off and on, for about the last two to three weeks. I searched for explanations furiously through books and the internet, and I found information that led me to believe that I (a) might be at the onset of a muscle strain or (b) have a grade 1 muscle strain. Although, the biggest thing for me was that I wasn't feeling any sort of pain, just that I felt that if I were to push my limits during a tempo run or during a race, that I would injure myself. Of course, I was worried because my marathon is fast approaching, and I have to run to eat! UGH! The point I'm trying to make is: had I logged my diet and training approach then, I would have noticed that I should have proceeded with this weekly mileage more carefully. Now I have something to look back upon not only to remember important milestones in my training, but to see what has worked for me in the past and understand where and when I should take extra precautions. 

So now that I've peaked your interest- or made you really uninterested- in running, click those links and start a journey that has changed not only my life, but the lives of others. Thanks to Mandi for giving me the opportunity to share a lot of information with you!



2 comments:

  1. Congrats on your little one! Love the running tips. I need to keep a journal!

    ReplyDelete
  2. you're amazing jess! great tips - really spoken from experience and heart!

    ReplyDelete

I am incredibly grateful for your comment! I will respond as soon as possible. XOXO, Mandi

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