If you know me, you probably wouldn’t describe me as, “a runnin’ person.” Running was never fun for me and I hated it throughout school P.E. classes. My hatred of running followed me through college and beyond- despite the fact that I’ve always been jealous of runners. I’ve always wanted to BE a runner.
Last August, after watching The Walking Dead, it dawned on me that if there were a zombie apocalypse, I would probably be among the first group to be devoured thanks to my stubbornness concerning running. I realized that even if I NEEDED to run, I probably couldn’t… at least not for very long. That’s when I decided to TEACH myself to run. My Dad always jokes, “Left. Right. Left. Right. What’s to learn?” But running actually IS something you have to teach yourself; something for which you have to proactively train. You have to teach yourself how to breathe. You have to build stamina. You have to build different muscles. You have to teach yourself to control all your limbs at the same time to avoid them exploding off your body. You also have to be careful. For as much as I love running, it is eating my body. But more on that later.
Fortunately, there has never been an easier time to learn how to run. If you have a smart phone, that is. I do! And a majority of you, I’m guessing, also have an iPhone. So, I just wanted to share with you what has helped me- not just in running, but in taking better care of myself.
To teach myself how to run, I went straight to the gold standard of running training: Couch to 5k. It is based on interval training and gradually ramping your body up to being able to run a 5k marathon. Although I only have vague notions of ever marathon-ing, I thought it would be the place to start. The official ‘Couch to 5k’ app is fantastic. It breaks down the program by day and provides the timing for your intervals– politely telling you when it is time to walk and when it is time to run*. It also does this along with your iTunes music… which you would think is a no brainer, but earlier versions didn’t have that option. It is an 9-week program, but you can repeat weeks until you are comfortable with that stage of the training. When I started, I did Week 1 (warm-up 5 minutes, then do this 5 times; jog 45 seconds, walk 90 seconds, jog 45 seconds, walk 60 seconds, cool down 5 minutes) for three weeks. And I am still only on week four… after 8 months! But I am doing this at my own pace. Which is crucial. Listen to your body. *Here is where I tell you that I don’t know if what I do can really be called “running.” I’m not walking, or speed walking… but I’m also not sprinting. I prefer to think of it more as a jog?
Anyways, The only thing that is missing from the Couch to 5k app is a GPS component/calorie counter. Which is why my other favorite iPhone fitness app is Runkeeper. You enter in your age, weight, and it triangulates your position and tracks it for your workout. Yes, I use this app whenever I run… but I also use it when I’m hiking or walking to the grocery store (which is something you can do in Chicago). Not only does it track your distance and your calories, but it also gives you a map of your workout route AND logs your workouts.
Between those two apps and my iTunes “OutWork” playlist, running is a treat I crave. It is a time to myself where I can clear my brain and focus on my body. But, as I mentioned before, running is trying to kill me. The second month of my running adventure was spent on a recumbent bike at the gym trying to heal my newly acquired snapping hip syndrome thanks to training improperly that first month! But after building muscles around my hip, I started again. Running is SO hard on your joints and many people suggest that walking is just as effective a workout without the added strain… but how can you make a girl walk on the farm after she’s run through Gay Par-ee? I do yoga, Zumba, ride the recumbent bike, walk through the neighborhood, train with a stability ball (my favorite), kettle bells, and try to only run every other day, or so. My hip is better… but I think I’m developing a bone spur on my heel. And yet… even as I’m icing down my ankle in the evening, I can’t wait to do it again.
So, why do it? Why hurt your body? Here are some things that I LOVE about running: It’s like you are walking but MUCH FASTER. I know that sounds silly, but I get a rush from the moving process happening faster. When you are running, there are so many variables to consider that my brain is so busy calculating where to step (and how to get there without exploding) to even realize that minutes have gone by. And as busy as my brain is avoiding stepping funny on a sidewalk crack, there is still a calm about it; a floating, if you will. You become hypnotized by your awesome running playlist and next thing you know- your work out is over. Your brain chemistry starts kicking in and you get a crazy rush.
In the past, I got so focused on “only needing 45 minutes” of cardio that I was cheating myself. I no longer want the bare minimum. I do it because I LOVE it. If I’m going to go through all the energy and hassle of getting dressed to work out, why JUST do it for 45 minutes?! Imma do it at LEAST a hour.
Today was really the first day of Spring with highs in the mid-40’s… but the sun was out and so was I. I had been doing a lot of running on the treadmill and was so pumped to get outside. In Chicago, photosynthesizing while you can is crucial. The last time I had been able to run outside was early December, so I was jacked! I love running in my neighborhood and I found myself at a park with full sunshine exposure and started making the circle. As I was running, I noticed there was a colored chalk line that was ALSO going around the circle with me. I followed it all the way around and found that “Alexander” had left me a note. I highlighted it in the picture below, but “Alexander” had scribed this at the beginning of his masterpiece. It says, “Around The Park- Alexander.” It made me smile and it made me go around his circle 5 more times- soaking up the rays. I also saw my first sign of Spring with the green buds pushing their way up through the ground. Totally great workout.
So, even if you aren’t a runner… get OUT there. My absolute favorite part about running (and working out in general), though, is the feeling of superiority I feel after I’ve finished my workout. And who do I feel superior over? I feel superior over parallel-universe Leigh; the one with the evil-goatee who decided to stay on the couch surfing Pinterest. I just kicked her ass.
Are you addicted to running? What is YOUR favorite workout? Do you have any awesome apps I should know about? Lemme know in the comments!
Also, just in case you are curious, the other two apps featured in the title picture are WebMD (which only fuels my paranoia) and My Plate. My Plate is a great calorie tracker! I used it for years before it was bought by LiveStrong… even after all the Lance Armstrong kerfuffle, is STILL a great app.