The Things I’ve Learned…

…about running! More specifically, the things I’ve learned in the past year, when I took on running as a full-time hobby. In no particular order, here they are:

Your mind is your #1 frenemy. If you can harness it to work for you, awesome! But sometimes your brain will sabotage you every which way. I feel like the most valuable training runs have been those that have challenged me mentally/emotionally.

Walk the thin line between listening to advice and giving in to “conventional wisdom”. No need to re-invent the wheel, but it’s good to occasionally challenge the status quo. Example: every sports nutritionist and running website out there recommends ~12-16 ounces of water per hour of running. Maybe my physiology is whack or maybe the Bay Area climate is cooler than most, but I drink 4-6 oz per hour, max. When I’ve tried to drink more, I get cramps.

Related: differentiate between substance and hype. Things that work: foam rolling and cross-training. Jury is still out on: chocolate milk and fad diets. Be wary of product giveaways that suddenly appear all over the running blog-o-sphere with 100% positive reviews. Think to yourself: when was the last time I felt so enthusiastic about a pair of socks/fanny pack/granola bar? Moreover: do I trust this person’s opinion? Do they ever offer any criticisms?

There will always be another run, another training cycle, and another race. Putting too much pressure on any one event (or set of events) will only work to suck the joy out of running.

Warming up and cooling down are underrated. Back when I used to run 3 miles at a time, doing warm-ups and cool-downs seemed silly. But as I worked my way up to longer runs, I saw the benefits of running a bit slower on either end of a workout. I don’t always cool-down, but I usually start off with an easier mile these days. I also do some dynamic stretching while waiting for my Garmin to find the satellite.

Everyone is different. What works for me may not work for anyone else, whether that’s stretching, running in minimalist shoes, or not eating before a run. It might take a while to find your running niche, but once you figure it out, it’s pretty cool.

There’s no such thing as slow. OK, obviously, that’s not true in a literal sense, but for every super slow run I go on, I have to remember a few things. One, at least I can run! There have been times in my life where I couldn’t run due to injury, and there are many people with permanent disabilities that prevent them from running. Two, speed is relative. I was always the slowest runner in gym class and on my high school soccer team. I’m happy to say that I can run much faster now, even on my slowest days. Three, I think everyone should get a high-five for just getting out the door. Overcoming inertia is a big deal!

You’ll never know unless you try. You just might surprise yourself. A year ago, I would’ve never predicted that I’d be able to run a 5K in under 27 minutes, that I’d come in first in my age group at a 10K, or that I’d run a marathon in the torrential rain and finish with a smile on my face. Racing is awesome that way… though the surprises may not always be so positive. Luckily, I haven’t had any truly unfortunate racing incidents yet (knock on wood!).

When you gotta go, you gotta go. Two words: no shame. And I’ll leave it at that.

Those are just a few of the lessons I’ve learned in the past year, and I’m sure I still have plenty to learn in the road ahead. What lessons have you learned as a runner?

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About

Howdy! My name is Jen and I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. I like to eat, run, and blog, but not usually at the same time.

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13 comments on “The Things I’ve Learned…
  1. Cathryn says:

    I love your point about bloggers’ recommendations. Initially I fell for them all but now I have a little more awareness. And despite a blogger I DO trust recommending a ‘Believe I am’ journal, I’l not be buying one. However Oiselle Rogas are very definitely on my Summer Purchasing list!!

  2. Amy says:

    Excellent list! I completely agree with everything on here! Over the last year of reading a billion running blogs, I’ve come to see the difference between people who are “ambassadors” for products or who get paid per mention (or are trying to become ambassadors) and people who casually mention products they use. Of course you think Nuun is the BEST.THING.EVER if you have their little logo all over your twitter profile. (For the record, Nuun is actually pretty fantastic!).

    The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that your body needs recovery time: both on a smaller level (during the week) and on a larger scale (months between goal crushing races). Also, body glide is really important if you don’t want to hate life.

  3. Angela says:

    You’re totally right — I think there are a lot of “rules of thumb” that are not necessarily true for all people in all situations (ie the water thing). I think sometimes conventional wisdom is a good place to start, knowing we’ll all probably have to adjust for our own bodies & also different situations.

    • Jen says:

      Yep, definitely. I think it takes a while for newbies to be like, “oh hey, I don’t have to do this the same way everyone else is doing it.”

  4. Dominick S. says:

    Man…Warming/Cooling/Stretching and Cross Training are underrated…running is much more complicated now that I read everyone’s blogs…in a good way. I will never concur with the “when you gotta go, you gotta go” part if that involves pee running down your leg! I would rather miss a PR by 45 seconds than be branded “pee pants” by my significant other.

  5. Lindsay says:

    Great tips! I’m still learning the delicate balance between pushing myself enough but not too far. I’ve had to take 1-2 weeks off at different times recently after pushing too hard on my long runs. There’s nothing worse than being sidelined when you don’t want to be.

    • Jen says:

      Yes, this is so true! For me, it’s been realizing that I’m not a high mileage runner (at least, not yet). 30-35 miles a week is my upper limit at this point. I’m in awe of people who can run 80-100 miles a week and still function.

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