I think we can all agree 2016 was a real doozy, but it’s safe to come out of your bunkers now. And that means resolution time!
Let’s start with a process of elimination. You know you’re not going vegan because: cheese. You quit smoking three years ago thanks to those trendy e-cigs. Now what? Now, my friends, we run: three little letters that have shaped human physiology for millennia. It doesn’t matter whether you’re planning on signing up for a marathon or just aiming to complete your first 5k with a little help from your friends...you need a plan. Take it from someone who identifies as a heifer and runs slower than a sloth working at the DMV: Proper preparation prevents poor performance. (Bonus: Losing weight also promises plenty of pizza parties in your plans, but I digress.)
Don’t fret. I’m going to break down some recommended guidelines that will push you along the path toward your running goals, one step at a time:
1) PROPER: Get fitted for proper running shoes. This is essential to keep you injury-free, particularly if you’re thinking you’re going to get a lot of mileage. Instead of hitting up one of the Big Box sports stores, I recommend finding a locally owned running shop, where the staff is uniquely trained to help you find the best shoe for your step without up-selling accessories, like orthotics, which you may not need. Keep in mind that your shoes’ life span should not go beyond 250-300 miles, so it’s wise to keep an eye out for sales and stock up on extra pairs when you can.
2) PREPARATION: Warming up is the key to ensuring every run is a great run. Think of it as a signal that lets your body know it’s about to get to work. It minimizes the stress on your heart when you actually begin to run, which is important. A healthy heart equals a happy body. A proper cool down is also important: It allows your heart rate and blood pressure to reset gradually, which lowers the shock to your system. A slow, 5-minute jog or steady walk is sufficient to ensure a smooth transition between your hard-core running lifestyle and your other life checking the spelling words on your kids’ homework with the help of "The Google."
3) PREVENTION: Avoid pitfalls that plague other runners. For one, don’t compare yourself to others: Your friends may be runners, and they may brag, on the sly, about their pace. Be like Jay-Z and brush it off. This is your race—your pace. Sure, it’s natural to push your limits, but you need to listen to your body’s signs. If you can’t maintain your breathing, slow it down. If you’re in need of help, there are many running clinics online or in your area. Chi Running is an excellent training program that offers seminars teaching proper form for breathing strategies for improved times and lower injury rates.
4) POOR: Keep it simple. Running is not limited to the rich but it is an excellent sport for the resourceful. If you’re not able to run hard, consider training and competing using a run/walk approach. This is a respectable strategy: You can post a 26.2 sticker on your windshield, regardless of whether you actually run the whole way or not. The medals at the finish line all look the same, unless you’re finishing, like, first—in which case, you don’t need my advice.
5) PERFORMANCE: Let go of all expectations when it comes to your performance, and don’t forget to have fun! Instead of keeping your sights on the finish line, take some time to reflect on the intangible goals that started you running in the first place: Do you use it as personal time away from your family to sort out your thoughts? Or is it your “happy hour"—an excuse to get healthy with friends? Whatever your motivation, don’t lose track. The best runners will tell you: Your performance reflects the passion you put into it. Focus on the journey, rather than the outcome, and you’re bound to see improved results over time.
If you’re still intimidated to go out on your own, I urge you to find an online community or local running club with people who inspire you, and hit the trails running! Stay humble, stay focused, and stay in the moment: When you are present, you'll uncover amazing magic along the way. Every run can be unique and invigorating, and you’ll practically hear the crowds cheering your heart’s desire: “Pizzaaaaaa!” (Or maybe that’s just me.)
In any case, good luck and happy trails!
Written by @MelissaKahn7
Melissa Kahn, a Jenny Craig brand ambassador, half-marathon runner and mother of four, founded the online community called Run, Heifer, Run! as a way to connect with and encourage others who are on the journey to healthier and happier lives, one step or mile at a time. Five years ago, Melissa cut the bull and got serious about her health. Starting with a few steps, she lost over 110 pounds, worked her way up to running races and even completed a triathlon. She cleaned up her diet, shed weight and ultimately found a fitness enthusiast underneath her extra baggage.
Melissa does all of this from her heiferhood in sunny Phoenix, where her husband, teenagers and two crazy puppies remind her that we're all a little happier in a herd.