runfreeforever

Live. Love. Run. It's what I do.

Don’t give up!!

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Every year, we start off the new track or cross country season with a sea of new faces…but then tomorrow, or the day after, or the week after, a significant number of them don’t return. Why? Why would they quit when they’re only just getting started? The first two weeks are always the hardest, as your body is adjusting to the stresses. When you’re so sore that you can barely move, that’s just your body telling you that it’s getting stronger and faster. Are they afraid that someone will be judging them if they come in last? I think that everyone has that fear of not being good enough. We all want to be first. We all want to win. We all want to be the one that people watch with awe and jealousy. But unfortunately, there’s only one winner. Being slow isn’t something to be embarrassed about. You’re not racing against anyone else but yourself and the clock. While getting first is always nice, in my opinion, I would be happier about getting a PR and feeling like I gave my all. Don’t least non-runners look down on you. If you keep running even through the pain, you’re stronger than they will ever be. I’ve heard people say that cross country isn’t a sport. They’re so wrong. Deep down, they’re just jealous that they aren’t as strong, fast, and fit as you are!

Don’t give up. Don’t be afraid of failure. Don’t be afraid of people laughing at you or looking down on you if you come in dead last. Don’t let the initial aches and pains of running make you lose your motivation to run. It’ll be worth it in the end if you stick it out and keep putting one foot in front of the other!

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Bye-Bye, Blisters!

Back in eighth grade when I started running on my own (outside of track season), I used to get awful blisters on my feet, especially on my arches. Especially after long runs and when it was rainy or snowy or wet, I’d get blisters so bad that I just wanted to take off my shoes, or I’d favor one leg over the other. If you ever have any ache or pain while running that causes you to change your running form, STOP RUNNING!!! It will only lead to even more injuries!!  But going back to my original point – blisters are so annoying! Part of my problem was due to my poorly chosen shoes, but even a new pair of quality running shoes didn’t cut it for me and my picky feet. But I’ve found a cure. Socks.

I used to just wear whatever socks I wanted – usually thin and 100% cotton. I had no idea that my choice in socks could make that much of a difference in my comfort while running. The most important thing that I look for in a good sock is that they’re made from synthetic materials. Even if they say that they’re sweat-wicking, but they’re made from 100% cotton, I wouldn’t get them. I’d always opt for something with more polyester, more spandex, more nylon, etc., over more cotton. When I started wearing socks made from better materials, I noticed a huge difference in the frequency of the blisters I got. Rather than being every single day, I now only get them on rare occasions! Here’s five of my favorite socks! (not necessarily in order of preference; I like all of them!)

1.)Pro Spirit® Women’s  Cushion Poly No Show Athletic Sock

Pro Spirit® Women's 3-Pack Cushion Poly No Show Athletic Socks - Assorted Colors

I first tried out these socks from Target. At only $5 for a three-pack, they’re budget friendly. They’re made with 79% cotton and 21% Nylon, and while this ratio isn’t ideal, they’re still good at wicking away sweat and moisture.

2.) Running II

I tried these socks from WrightSock, because they’re made specifically to prevent blisters. They’re made with two layers to reduce friction, plus they keep your feet dry and speed evaporation. I haven’t gotten any blisters from wearing them, but they have shrunk in the wash and don’t quite fit my feet anymore…so I would recommend making sure you get the right size before buying these!

3.)Women’s Recur No-Show socks

Besides being super fun, cute, colorful, and comfy, these Under Armour socks are made with a Moisture Transport System to get sweat away from your feet, with a blend of polyester, nylon, and spandex. Plus they have an Anti-Odor system to help prevent all that icky, stinky stuff that nobody wants!

4.) Women’s Grippy II No-Show Socks

These socks, also from Under Armour, are thinner than the previous socks. They’re made with Microfiber Nylon, Nylon, and Lycra® Spandex, and also have the Moisture Transport System. They have OdorBlock, Under Armour’s most advanced system of preventing odor-causing bacteria. They have the little grippy nubs on the bottom of them to help keep you from slipping too!

5.) Nike Cushion No-Show sock

161 - Spark/White

I’m not sure if they make these Nike socks anymore; I had a hard time finding them online. But they fit my feet great and have a specific left/right sock for an ideal fit. They also have a built-in arch that seems tighter than most built-in arches, in a good way. They’re made from Nylon, polypropylene, elastane, and polyester, so they wick away moisture as well.

If you are still having blister problems after you have good socks and shoes (or you have to wear certain socks/shoes for a uniform or something and have no other choice), Body Glide could be your new best friend. It looks a little like deodorant, and you apply it similarly. It helps prevent chafing and friction, and it doesn’t feel sticky or icky anything. I use it when I race or play soccer, when I’m running longer or faster than usual, or running in shoes that don’t fit my feet as well as my regular running shoes for some reason. It works wonders!

I hope these tips help! Happy comfortable, blister-free running!

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Just keep running, running, running!

When I’m running in track or cross country, whether it be at a meet or at practice, there are always those days when I just feel like giving up. I think that mental strength is the hardest part of running. I start races strong, confident, and motivated, but then in the middle when it starts to get hard and my legs are burning but I can’t see the finish line yet, it’s so tempting to give up a bit. It’s always the hardest to stay strong through the third quarter of a hard workout, when you’re tired but you’re not close enough to the end yet. I keep running, but I’m not all there mentally and I’m not giving all the effort that I could be giving. I start thinking things like “why am I doing this, it doesn’t really matter” or “I pushed hard at the beginning, I don’t have to go quite as hard now” or “Ahhhh my legs are killing, this hurts so bad, I just wanna trip over a tree so I can have an excuse to have a bad time!” I know it’s bad to let my mind wander so much that I’m trying to figure out how to get myself spiked or something so I can quit, but it’s so hard to stay focused the whole time. On monday, we ran five miles at a faster pace than usual, between a 7:25-7:50 minute/mile pace. It was freezing and snowing a bit that day, and my legs were numb from the cold but at the same time they were burning from the effort. On the way back of our out-and-back route, we slowed down so much more than we should have, to run the second 2.5 miles over a minute slower than the first 2.5 miles. We should’ve been able to keep up our pace, but it was so hard to stay strong all the way through. If that only happened at one practice, maybe it would be okay, but it happens every single time. Every race, every practice, I can’t seem to keep my pace even and keep it up through the middle and last half. Or if I could run negative splits and get faster as I go on, it would be even better. But my motivation and effort always drops off and I can’t do it. I start to doubt myself and think that I can’t do it, and I give up. I need to be more like Dory in Finding Nemo rather than being like Marlin!

Just pretend like she’s singing about running – when my legs want me to give up and feel like a Mister Grumpy Gills, I gotta just keep running, just keep running, just keep running, running, running! Cuz what do I do? I Run, run, run! Ha ha ho ho ho ho I love to RUN! And when you waaant to run, you gotta run!

If Dory can do it, so can you and I, right??

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Shin Splints Suck

It’s the second week of track practice and it seems like EVERYBODY is complaining of shin splints and other ailments. I’ve had my fair share of shin splints and sore feet, arches, Achilles, knees, IT bands, and all that icky stuff. But now the question is, what do you do about it??? Do you just keep running with the pain? Do you sit out for a while? Is there a way to get rid of them or prevent them?

Now I don’t want to take the place of your doctor, physical therapist, or anyone else like that. I don’t claim any medical expertise, but I have gone through it many times, and I’ve done my research and gotten lots of helpful hints from coaches and other runners.

My very first rule of thumb is to make sure you have the right shoes! I cannot stress enough how incredibly important your shoes are!! I’ve talked about the importance of good running shoes in previous posts, and I am a firm believer in the fact that the quality of your shoes will affect you entire body. When you’re running in old, worn out shoes or shoes with the wrong amount of support for your foot type and your style of running, whether it be too much or too little, it can cause all sorts of problems. I don’t want to get into all the things your shoes do for you, but I promise that a quality pair of running shoes that fit the needs of your feet will help you sooooo much! It will help if you frequently suffer from blisters and shin splints, to even knee and back problems! Even though it can get expensive, it’s totally worth it!! I promise!!

If you’re still having problems after you know you have the right shoes, increasing your mileage or intensity too quickly could be another cause. A 10% increase in mileage every week is the recommended amount, but it really just depends on your body. Some people could be easily capable of increasing their mileage faster than that, but 10% could be too much of  an increase for others. If you’re increasing your mileage quickly or adding in more speed work and your body is screaming “NOO!!” sometimes you gotta listen and give yourself a break or risk hurting yourself. I hate listening to my body when it’s telling me “NO!” because it makes be feel so weak. I’ve been running for the past five years and I can tell from the way my body responds when I’m increasing my mileage too quickly and when I should stop. I know that it’s better to take one day easy so I can keep myself from getting hurt rather than being out for a week, but all too often I risk it and keep pushing when I should’ve backed off! Do as I say, not as I do; I don’t want you to get yourself hurt like me!!

As you’re backing off the mileage and intensity, icing your shins can help relieve some pain and help with swelling. Also taking ibuprofen, naproxen, or aspirin will help since they are both pain killers and anti-inflammatory. Compression socks/sleeves can also promote blood flow and speed healing. I like to sleep in my compression socks, a girl on my team runs in hers and wears them all the time, it’s personal preference!

Stretching your calves can help, too. Here’s some stretches to try from tapingshinsplints.com. It’s a blog full of info about shin splints and ways to treat and prevent them!

Another stretch that I like is when you kneel and sit back on your feet like in this picture:

Advanced Shin Stretch
http://www.teachpe.com/stretching/advanced_shin.php

Lastly, regularly doing exercises to strengthen your calves can help prevent shin splints. My coach has us walk only on our toes, only on our heels, with our feet pointed out, and with them pointed inwards for a few minutes after we run sometimes, to help strengthen those lower legs. Several repetitions of heel raises will help calf strength too, either by standing on flat ground or with your toes and forefoot on the edge of a stair, then lifting your heel up to stand on your tip-toes before returning back down.

I hope these tips help!

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Resistance bands, my new love!

So track season is one week down, and we have so many more left! But that’s a good thing 🙂 The first week hasn’t been too hard – we’ve had three aerobic-paced 4-5 mile days, a time trial 1600m on Wednesday, and we ran a bit faster and shorter today – 3.25 to 3.5 miles in 23:33. I ran a 6:15 for my 1600 Wednesday, which isn’t ideal, but I’m happy enough, especially for the beginning of the season. I think that I could do better if I had another chance, just because it’s hard to remember how to run fast and still pace myself since it’s been so long since my last race. I’m mostly just glad that I didn’t get nearly as out of shape as last year! I think I’ve got a decent base and I just gotta go from here!

YESTERDAY WAS THE WORST/BEST WORKOUT EVERRRRRRRR!!!!!!!:D

We ran our 10 minute warmup, did our dynamic stretching, then ran 30 minutes at aerobic pace on the trail (somewhere around 8:15ish/mile pace, give or take around 10 seconds). It started snowing on the way back, which was pretty cool (literally!). Then we did some abs and worked with resistance bands!

Now abs and a resistance band workout may not sound like that much fun, but it really was! It burned and made me sore today, but it was great just because it was new, and I rarely mix things up in my own workouts as much as I should. Our distance coach brought prizes for whoever could hold a plank for the longest since it was Valentine’s Day. Our head track coach and cross country coach did it with us too, and that was another very good reason to stick it out longer to beat him…which I did, by the way!:) in the end, I tied with two other girls, and our coach let us stop after 3 minutes or so. I got one of these:)

M&M Valentine Candy Fan, 12 count

A Candy Fan!!! Super cute 🙂

We did some work with resistance bands too, which was quite exciting because I’ve never tried them before! I love them! We did some of the exercises shown in the video below, like the walks and the squats. It’s a great workout for your glutes! Maybe I’m weird, but I love the sore feeling I get after a hard workout. Kinda like the “No Pain, No Gain” mentality, it makes me feel like I really worked hard and that I’m getting stronger. Go ahead and give some of these workouts a shot, maybe you’ll have as much fun with them as I did!

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Running Is Ruining My Lungs :(

As I’ve mentioned before in earlier posts, besides being a runner, I am also a singer. I am in the prep show choir at my school and we’re nearing the end of a great, successful season. It’s so much fun and so exhilarating to perform in front of so many people. Plus having an incredibly talented group of people and an amazing director makes it even better. We’ve won our first four competitions and we have one more competition this saturday. Here’s a video of our show!


But now that track season has started, I’m out running in the cold everyday, breathing in the cold, dry air. The weather hasn’t been awfully cold lately, but still in the upper 20’s to 30’s range. When I run in the cold a lot, it tends to hurt my lungs and give me a cough, but it usually isn’t too bad. But lately this past week, my lungs have had lots of problems and I start coughing every time I breathe deeply, laugh, or sing…which is really bad when you’re in show choir and have to sing and dance and breathe deeply all at the same time. It’s hard to have good breath support when you can’t breathe in deeply without having a coughing fit! I suppose I could be getting sick, but I’m pretty sure that it’s all just from my running in the cold. I was looking up ways to try to stop and prevent this, and came across a few websites with some helpful tips. And even if you aren’t a singer, some of these tips might be helpful for you too if your lungs are sensitive to breathing in the cold air! Here’s a few of them!

♪ Try to breathe in only through the nose and out through nose and mouth. This gives the air a chance to warm and moisturize before hitting your larynx and lungs.

♪ Scarf & hat. 70-80% of body heat-loss happens through neck and head.

♪ Cold air is usually very dry and requires us to hydrate more than normal.  Remember the rule: Half your body weight in ounces of water daily. 150 lbs. = 75 ounces of water . . . at least.

♪ A warm drink will help warm areas around the larynx, but remember: caffeine is a diuretic and can dry you out. Staying with decaffeinated drinks (still some caffeine there), or better yet no-caffeine drinks is better on singing days. Something like “Throat Coat” tea is filled with interesting flavors and very good for singers.

from http://vocalcoach.com/blog/2010/11/cold-weather-tips-for-singers/

I’ve tried breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth more when we’re doing shorter, easier runs, but it’s nearly impossible when we have harder, faster days. I’ve been drinking lots of tea and bringing it to practices, which helps a bit. I should probably drink more water throughout the day, but it gets hard at school. Hopefully the weather will warm up a bit soon or I can figure out how to get my lungs to be happy again!

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WOOO TRACK SEASON OFFICIALLY STARTED TODAY!!!!!

Guess what?????? Track season started today!!!! And the first practice was great, and I’m completely looking forward to the rest of the season! To be honest, I was a little scared and dreading the start of the season….but once I was standing there with all the girls, waiting for practice to start, that all changed. I was, and am, pumped for this season. My motivation and drive that I’ve been missing all winter have all come back with a rush. I so badly want to be that varsity runner and to qualify for state! There’s a long season ahead of us. Today was only the first day, and if I want to get through this week, through this month, and come out at the front of the pack, I need to work my butt off. Yes, recovery days are very important, but I can’t become complacent or let myself get worn out. I need to stay strong, take good care of my health, get enough sleep, keep my stress levels down, stay on top of my schoolwork, and make sure that I am eating and drinking the right things to keep me at the top of my game. If I want to run in college, I need to make the most of this season this year so coaches will see my effort and my abilities! I wanna show my coaches, my teammates, my opponents, and everyone else that I am strong and fast and I won’t give up. I think that consistency is one of my strong points and I need to keep it that way. I need to run consistent or consistently faster times all season. I listed some of my goals on My Goals Page that I intend to keep this season. I know that I didn’t keep my goals over the winter like I wanted to – I didn’t run nearly as much as I wanted to, I didn’t do all the ab workouts that I wanted to, I didn’t keep myself in tip-top shape like I wanted to. But I think that I did succeed in keeping myself relatively in shape, and I know that I’m at least in considerably better shape now than I was at the beginning of the track season last year. We’re supposed to have a mile time trial on Wednesday – I’ll keep you posted on how I do! I’m planning on going all out and hopefully I won’t be too disappointed with my first time of the season!

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Healthy vs. Weight-loss

If you ever watch TV, listen to the radio, read magazines, or are exposed at all to society, I’m guessing you’ve heard the countless advertisements for weight-loss programs, supplements, and fitness programs. All of them claim to be the best and claim to make you happy. The message we’re sent says that if you just lose 10, 15, or 30 lbs, your life will be happier, you’ll feel better about yourself, and everything will go your way. But I’d like to disagree with that perceived notion that we have to lose weight and wear a certain size and have a certain number pop up when you step on the scale. I think that an emphasis on health – living a healthy, active lifestyle and making healthy food decisions – is what’s more important than emphasizing weight-loss and dieting.

I don’t know about other people, but when I step on the scale and start worrying about the numbers I see, I have a tendency to immediately think that I’m fat and need to lose weight. I know that I’m at a healthy weight, but sometimes I think we all feel like we weigh more than we should, or think that our old jeans should fit better than they do, or wish that our swimsuits looked better on us than they do. But at least for me, worrying about losing weight makes me go down a snowballing path of worry, lack of self-esteem, a poor self-image, and obsession over food and calories. But then when I get stressed, sad, and worried I just end up eating more chocolate and ice cream. So basically, when I start worrying about my weight, I just end up less healthy than I was to start out with. I don’t think that it’s healthy when I start obsessing over food and calorie intake when I start worrying solely about my weight and the numbers on the scale. There’s so much more to life, so many other things to worry about, that I don’t think that it’s worth it to constantly worry about how many grams of fat were in that cake that I ate earlier or the chili I had for dinner. Eating disorders are scary, like I’ve mentioned in previous posts, and at least for me, worrying about the scale is a great open door for me to head down a path that I don’t want to take.

Rather than worrying about my weight, I think that it’s more effective to make a conscious effort to live a healthy lifestyle. For about the past year, I’ve tried to focus my attention much more on how healthy I am overall rather than just how many calories I’ve eaten or how heavy I am. I think that my mindset is much healthier and happier, and I am much more prone to choose better foods and keep myself fit when I focus on being healthy rather than on losing weight.

I find myself stepping on the scale less often, maybe somewhere between once a week to once a month, rather than every day. And guess what? My weight didn’t go anywhere when I wasn’t keeping an eye on it. It didn’t suddenly skyrocket, and it didn’t suddenly disappear. It just stayed where it was. Not monitoring my weight vigilantly every day, or multiple times a day hasn’t changed anything but my satisfaction with the girl I see staring back at me in the mirror. When I’m focusing on being healthy, I’m not afraid of being “fat” or spending my time worrying about just a number. Sure, I still mess up and don’t always eat healthy or get every workout in. But that’s okay, I just start over and keep going. When I focus on being healthy, I’m content with my body because I’m doing what I can to take good care of it, rather than trying to get rid of part of it. It changes the way I think about every run, every workout, and every meal. It changes my mindset to be making myself the best I can be rather than trying to take off the part of you that I don’t want. It’s a focus on my whole body, rather than just a portion of it.

Have you been focusing only on the numbers on a scale? Have you been obsessing over food and calories, and focusing on a part of your body rather than the whole thing? I encourage you to try changing your mindset on this weight-loss craze. If you focus on being healthy, on eating right and staying fit rather than on losing weight, hopefully you can get out of the pattern of stress, worry, unsatisfactory body image, and disappointment that so many of us put ourselves through!

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Kashi Dark Mocha Almond bars…YUMMM

I found a new favorite granola bar!! The Kashi Dark Mocha Almond chewy granola bars are the best!

They are delicious! They have the perfect amount of sweetness, and they’re especially great for all you coffee lovers out there. But they’re great not only for your taste buds but they’re also good for you! Their number one ingredient is whole grains and they have four grams of fiber, which leaves you full for longer. They also have no high fructose corn syrup, or hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils. They only have three and a half grams of fat, most of which are poly- or mono-unsaturated fats (the good-for-you fats that could help lower your cholesterol and improve heart health, and is found in nuts, avocados, olive oil, etc. To read more about poly- and mono-unsaturated fats, click here.)

Another plus to these tasty granola bars is their ratio of protein to carbs. these bars have six grams of protein and twenty-one grams of carbs, or between a 3:1 and 4:1 ratio. When you workout or run, especially for extended periods of time, it’s important to get both carbohydrates and protein back into your system within half an hour for proper recovery (to read more on proper recovery click here). The carbs are important to refuel your muscles’ glycogen stores so you are ready to go the next day. Protein is also important to help your muscles rebuild and repair torn muscle tissue. Both are extremely important to get your body working the best. From looking at various websites, somewhere between a 2:1 to 4:1 ratio of carbs-to-protein seems to be the rule of thumb. It may take some experimenting to see what works best for you and your body. These granola bars are right in that range though, so try them out!

When you eat Kashi’s Dark Mocha Almond granola bars, you will probably forget everything I just told you about their healthy qualities and get lost in coffee-chocolaty heaven. I’ve found them at Hy-vee and Target, and I would definitely recommend looking for a box in your own grocery store! Let me know if you love them as much as I do! 🙂

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