Tuesday, April 8, 2014

First steps: Beginning running {+ a book review}

Running is the simplest of sports, they say. You put on a pair of shorts and a shirt, lace up a pair of shoes and go.

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It's exactly what I did for my first 5K - the Warbird 5K/10K in May 2008. I wore a cotton tank top with a long-sleeve knit lifestyle tee on top and cotton sweat pants. My shoes were a rugged pair of gray-and-pink Adidas that I bought from Kohl's because they were on sale and fashionable. Oh, and I wore cotton socks.

If I were dressing for a 5K now, especially one in May, the look would be a lot different - my new favorite Brooks Running shorts, moisture-wicking tank, shoes that I bought at a running store and Pro Compression wicking socks. Not that the change is wardrobe is bad or good - I just didn't know any better back then.

In fact, I didn't know anything. I had no idea about Gu, Garmins or glycogen. I thought the sole purpose of athletic wear was to be pretentious and self important. Black toenails happened when I dug into my high school days {read: my teal Caboodle} and painted them. Tempo applied to music, speed was a drug and fartlek made me laugh.

I thought running meant you ran. Period.

It wasn't until I discovered the world of running blogs that my eyes began to open, and I quickly began to see that I had been making some mistakes. Specifically, wearing cotton leggings from Target on cold winter days. Talk about freezing your ass off. Literally.

Runner's World is trying to make the sport more accessible and help newbies not do what I did with its latest release - "Runner's World Big Book of Running for Beginners."

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From the publisher:
"The Runner’s World Big Book of Running for Beginners" helps readers foster a healthy lifestyle with aides such as:
  • Five training plans to start walking, start running, run nonstop, run faster, and run longer 
  • No-fail weight-loss strategies 
  • Ideas for meals and snacks to eat before you run, on the road, and after you're done 
  • Injury-prevention tips including a guide on which pains to run through and which pains demand surrender 
  • Inspirational stories from people who used running as a tool to lose weight, stop smoking, overcome illness and heartache and manage chronic pain.
A lot of the stuff seems like, "Well, duh. Of course I am going to eat peanut butter toast before a race." Remember, though, runners were not born with that knowledge - it was discovered - whether by reading a blog, chatting with a friend or reading a book. I think it's important to have all of that basic information in one place, along with the inspirational stories, to make running less intimidating as the less intimidating it is, the more likely people will do it. The more people do it, the happier we'll be. The happier we are the less likely I am to say "stabby."

Moving on ...

I also liked the section on running safety, which included a breakout box on what to do when faced with a loose dog. I've been in the situation more than once and faced down everything from miniature (yappy) poodles to pit bulls to German shepherds to labradors - all of which are equally scary when you don't know the dog's demeanor. One of the best tips is to tell the dog to "sit" as that's one command most dogs are taught.

I do feel like there is too much of the book devoted to weight loss for my liking. I understand that many people pick up - and stick with - running to burn calories and lose weight. Heck, it was a part of my decision to run. I just don't think you can eat like a "runner" because there are so many approaches to a healthy, balanced lifestyle that one doesn't fit all. At least in my experience. Staying with that, I found it more important to develop an identity, as a person, as a runner to stay committed rather than merely develop an exercise habit.

If you make it through the book and are still laughing when you hear "fartlek," don't worry. There is a glossary at the end. And it's a funny word.

Disclosure: I was provided a copy of the "Big Book of Running for Beginners" for review but was not compensated for this post.


  1. A good gift possibility for hubs who ignores me when I tell him not to wear cotton when he goes on runs...

    1. It might also help him lose 3 pounds.

    2. haha! Within a week?? my question for his, what about NEXT week? He makes me laugh.

  2. I have to remember that not everyone grew up running like I did. There were times with my now husband that I would think to myself what is he doing or wearing. I nicely offered tips and was sly about telling him to read this or that. Runners forget sometimes that running isn't as easy as we make it out to be. There's a science behind running, especially when you start racing. Yes all you need is some shoes and you can run, but when you want to take it a little more seriously alot comes into pay.