Monday, June 10, 2013

Gearing Up for Success

As you may have noticed, I have been a bit lax in posting on my blog the last couple of weeks.  I offer no excuses, but I would like to share what we have been doing over the last two weeks that has contributed to less time spent on writing.   I must backtrack before I bring you up to current happenings, so here goes.

Once I learned to ride a bike, I felt a growing urge to take my workouts outside.  My initial focus was solely on bicycling, and then, one day sometime in February, I felt the pull to go out for a run.  I’m not sure where it came from, because I hadn’t run since 2008.  Oh, sure, I’d get on the treadmill here and there and go for a “run” (something like more of a jog/walk), but I never went far and I was always bored stiff.  So, this thought about running had me a bit perplexed.  I allowed the thought to percolate around in my head, but didn’t do anything with it right away.

As I kept considering running, I looked at my husband one day and told him about my desire.  I really wanted to go for a run that day.  Really wanted to.  So, I did.  It hurt.  I hurt.  I felt heavy and slow.  But, I also felt good about completing my first run.  I felt like I had accomplished something.  And, I had pushed through the doubts that I could go a couple of miles and did it.  I don’t recall what my pace was that first day.  It doesn’t matter to me because I know my pace has gotten much better since then.  My distance has increased, too.  A lot.  I now go for at least 3 miles every run and typically go 4 to 6 miles with a long slow distance run thrown in for the endurance aspect.  But, I digress.

As we began running, we started putting in a lot of time dedicated to researching.  My husband did most of the research, but then we would talk about that research, as we sought to clarify and make good decisions from the information he gleaned through that research.  So, you ask, just what were we researching and what does that have to do with the past couple of weeks?  We looked into gear; running and cycling shoes, hydration packs, running vests, running and cycling clothes, GPS watches, sunglasses.  We researched bicycles; mountain, road, and cyclocross.  We analyzed form and technique for running and cycling, both road and trail.  We researched the how-to’s of nutrition on hours long runs and bicycle rides.  And on, and on, and on.  Sometimes we drove ourselves crazy with the research.  At the time, we had a lot of time to research because we were waiting on some funds to come in that would be put to outfitting our family to run and cycle successfully.  While we were waiting, we used the shoes we had, the clothes we had, and the gear we had, which was almost nothing.  Our shoes were over two years old and were pretty worn out, though they did serve their purpose for those few months they needed to.  Our clothing was not running or cycling specific, but it got us out there and also served it’s purpose.  One pair of my shorts was so old, the seams along the inner thigh were threadbare to the point I wasn’t so sure I wouldn’t have a blow-out on one of my runs.  That would not have been a pretty sight, let me tell you.

In our research, we found two websites that helped us immensely when it came time to make our final decisions.  DCRainmaker reviews all sorts of running gear, including GPS and non-GPS training watches.  His reviews are incredibly in-depth and he provides pictures so you know what is included with each watch and screenshots of the different watch settings so you can see the features included on each watch.  It was his reviews that directed us towards our eventual purchases this past week and were most influential in our decision.  Runblogger provides in-depth reviews of shoes, in addition to other gear reviews and discussions about training and foot strike.  His reviews helped us greatly in ultimately deciding which shoes we would purchase.

By no means are these two the only websites out there offering such reviews, and they were not the only websites we used in our research.  They happen to be the two that we found ourselves going back to time and again as we would find something else we wanted more information about.  We listened to Runblogger's Peter Larson because of his background in anatomy and his research into many different shoes, as well as his willingness to acknowledge that his preferences in shoes are not necessarily the preferences of others.  Just go to his website through the Runblogger link in the previous paragraph and you can see for yourself what I mean.  DCRainmaker was our go-to guy for the training watches because of his propensity for sharing every aspect and feature of the watch he could.  You can click on the DCRainmaker link in the previous paragraph and it will take you directly to his website.  I came away from some of his articles feeling as though my head was spinning, but in a good way.  We knew that if we had a question about some aspect or feature of a watch we were looking into, we could look it up on his website and find the information we wanted.

As far as clothing went, we went in and tried on different types of clothing, keeping in mind our goals for over the next year or so.  I know I want to spend a lot of time and miles running.  This means, for me, comfort and practicality.  If I’m not comfortable, chances are I won’t keep going with something.  I changed my style of shorts from compression to lined running shorts.  Talk about comfort.  I have freedom of movement, no chafing, no riding up my legs, and they are by far cooler than tight fitting compression shorts.  I also invested in some sports bras and some shirts that wick away sweat, another great comfort feature for me.  One of the things I was finding as we were running is that the tissue in the breast area hurt because I did not have a good sports bra that would hold me in place.  I ended up deciding on a style that holds well without flattening me into a “uni-boob.”  They can be a bit difficult to get on and off when I am sweaty, but no more so than any other type of sports bra.  The wicking shirts are great because they wick the sweat away and they are cooler than a cotton t-shirt.

We spent a lot of time deciding which shoes we would go with, also.  We were running in 2 year old Merrell barefoot running style shoes, as minimal as you can get other than running in huarache sandals or barefoot.  We were wearing through the tread quickly and we found it near impossible to go more than four miles at a time in our Merrell’s without some sort of foot discomfort.  The cushioning just wasn’t there after so much use already on them.  We talked about getting new Merrell’s, but we also looked at Altra shoes, a zero-drop shoe with cushioning.  For those of you unfamiliar with zero-drop shoes, they are shoes that are the same height in the heel as in the forefoot.  Most other traditional running shoes have at least a 13 mm drop from heel to forefoot.  This can lead to many issues, and potentially injury, which I will not cover here, but you can check out Runblogger’s website for articles about the benefits of running in zero-drop shoes.  Zero-drop shoes mimic a barefoot running style, but provide cushioning for your feet at the same time.  Merrell shoes offer protection with some cushioning, but not much.  They are a true barefoot running shoe.

We also checked out Salomon shoes for trail running, as this is something we would also like to eventually do.  The Salomon Sense Mantra shoes are door-to-trail shoes with a 6 mm drop, considered a minimalist shoe, though not a barefoot shoe.  I am very much a believer in minimalist running.  I am not a staunch, have-to barefoot runner, but I think it is important to work with my body as much as possible.  I ultimately chose to go with a pair of Altra Intuition 1.5 and a pair of Salomon Sense Mantra for my longer runs.  I have not yet decided if I am going to stick with the Altra shoes.  For some reason, it feels as though my stride has changed.  I am still working on this and will continue running in the Altra shoes unless I find they just don’t work for me.  The Sense Mantra shoes will be my long distance shoe.  They feel like a glove and are incredibly lightweight.  I forget I am wearing them when I am out there running.  The 6 mm drop is so small, it is unnoticeable, but the heel is cushioned so well, I am able to run the downhill portions more quickly and with no heel pain.  They are definitely my new favorite shoe.  I think I may decide to go back to a pair of Merrell shoes the next time I purchase a pair of running shoes, because I think the issue I was having in them was related only to wear and tear, not to the lack of cushioning.  I would use the Merrell shoes for shorter runs and the Salomon shoes for longer runs.  We’ll see when that time comes around.  In the meantime, I will keep running in the Altra shoes and I may find they work better for me as I run in them more.

Since we have made our purchases over the last couple of weeks, I am finding it more comfortable to get out there and run.  Is it easier?  Frankly, no.  But, I feel like  a runner now.  I look like a runner, too.  For me, this did something with my mindset.  It’s as if it’s been an uplifting experience and I feel more prepared to get out there and put in longer distances.

I guess my overall point to you is this: when you decide you want to do something, do it, however you can.  But, and this is a big but…do your research, talk to people who are doing what you want to do, find out what it takes to be successful.  Then, do what you need to do to be successful.  Would I have kept running if I hadn’t made the decision to invest what I did?  Maybe.  Probably.  But maybe not, too.  It would have become easier to come up with excuses to not do it.  There were days I made the choice to not run because my feet were tired and my body was tired.  Some days I needed the rest; other days I did not, I just didn’t feel like going.  Now, I find myself looking forward to the next run, how far I will go, whether short or long, where I will set my pace or if I will base my pace on heart rate, where I will run, etc.  I look for ways to get out there and do, not excuses to stay in and lounge.  I take my rest days, when necessary, but I look forward to getting back out there after those rest days.  Find what works for you and DO IT.  I can’t stress this enough.  DO IT!  You can, you know deep down you can.  How bad do you want it?

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