Pre-training: Running Is Hard

So pre-training isn’t a real phrase because if you’re training for something, you’re doing so before the event, thus prior to, thus ‘pre’. But anyway, as soon as I joined Urban Initiatives’ Chicago Marathon Team (see Thoughts On “Getting Involved”) I started my “pre-training”. Basically, I started running around like my life depended on it. Fortunately, my entire marathon training experience won’t have to be so desperate and disorganized. One of the advantages to running on UI’s team is that I receive a membership to CARA (Chicago Area Runners Association) and can take part in their 18 Week Summer Marathon Training Program! This program started last week (*skull emoji*). Since, I’m notorious for preparing and planning, it’s no surprise I would approach my CARA training the same way. My drive to start training before training was motivated primarily by the fact that I don’t consider myself a “runner”. Granted, I work out, which involves running sometimes, but in conversation I would never say, like, “Oh ya, I’m a runner”. The point of my “pre-training” was to hopefully make it less obvious during my official training runs that I am not a runner.

So why am I not a “runner”? Because running is hard. And life is hard enough without adding more hard stuff to it. When I start to get on my “life is hard, why am I running” tangent I think of the quote: “sometimes the hardest things in life are the things most worth doing.” I repeat this phrase in my head when I need an automatic attitude adjustment. Upon Googling the phrase’s origin, though, I found that Castle from Castle, the prime time ABC show, was the one who said it… so, there’s that. While I was disappointed to find out my marathon mantra came from an ABC television show, if it can get me through a 7 mile run on a humid summer day in Chicago, the origin doesn’t matter.

Speaking of summer, it seems to be the season when all of us “non-runners” come out of the woodwork; either because we want to shape up our “beach bod”, because it’s our only time during the work week spent outside, or because we’ve signed up to run a marathon to the bewilderment of our friends and family (or D. all of the above).  Reasons and motivations aside, I wanted to know why, physically, running is so hard for some of us (aside from the obvious strain incurred from propelling all of your body weight through space). I wanted to know what happens to the body “on running” (think: “This is your brain on drugs” fried egg PSA). The best article I came across in my search was What’s Up With That: Why Running Hurts Every Part of Your Body, pretty straightforward. Here’s a summary:

  1. Within minutes, your chest starts to itch because blood is rushing into capillaries in the skin. For non-runners, these capillaries aren’t regularly activated, so they swell when filled with blood. This swelling  causes irritation to nearby nerve endings, thus the itching sensation.
  2. Soon following, your leg muscles start to  burn. This is your muscles’ way of letting your brain know they’re working. Fortunately, this burning typically comes before the body is actually tired, so you can push through.
  3. After the burning in your muscles subsides, it’s replaced by a burning in your side. The good ol’ side stitch. No one actually knows why they occur. Moving on.
  4. One last burn, the one in your lungs. Basically, you can’t get CO2 out, as quickly as you’re trying to get oxygen in.
  5. The grand finale: gas. Enough said.

As the article states, these side effects are experienced particularly by newer or irregular runners. Sounds horrible, right? Why would anyone ever start running? Or continue running? While articles detailing the hell of running are few and far between, articles detailing the overwhelming benefits of running are many. There are the obvious reasons: increases physical fitness, can assist with weight loss, boosts immune system, and makes you happier with all the endorphins bum-rushing your brain. But the list doesn’t stop there! Running can actually help your brain work faster, improve memory, give you glowing skin, save on gym fees, and introduce you to new people via a whole new subculture. For additional reasons: 30 Convincing Reasons to Start Running Now. So, if you’ve checked with your doctor that you’re healthy enough to start a running regimen, get out there! See below for my non-runner starter kit (fyi, if you didn’t know, I’m in no way a trainer, health professional, etc.)

Non Runner, Running Starter Kit:

  • Running shoes (duh): Honestly, getting a good sturdy pair of running shoes is crucial. I used to think cross training and running shoes were the same, they’re not. Look for something with a thicker bottom if you’re planning to do long distance running. I’m currently sporting the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus. If you haven’t bought running shoes before, I’d recommend doing your research or going into a store like Fleet Feet that specializes in running shoes.
  • Plan: Consider motivation for running, and find a plan that matches your goals. Whether it’s to complete a 5k, lose a few lbs, or to just change-up your work out routine, there are tons of plans out there. A beginner’s plan I like is this one by Runner’s World. If you don’t plan to succeed, you plan to fail (lol).
  • Route: Map out ahead of time your general route, especially if you’re prone to getting turned around and lost (like myself).

That’s really all you need! But if you have a smart phone I might recommend downloading the Nike+ Running App, it tracks your distance, pace, route, elevation, you can use the Coach function to create a plan, and even add (compete) with friends on the app.

Happy Running,

Arty the Alien