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Running (or Walking) Your First Race

Written on November 7, 2012 at 9:57 am , by

Running or walking your first road race can be intimidating, especially if you have never been to a race before and don’t know what to expect. I’ve been running races for a couple of years now, everything from 5K’s and 10K‘s, to half- and full-marathons, and I still get nervous about each one of them! But there really is no reason to worry. I will (hopefully) ease your mind about your first race.

Choosing a race—I had no idea how to go about looking for a race at first. Now, I like to go to Active.com to search for races near me. I look at the location and date, obviously; but I also look to see if the race is timed (“chip timed” means that you wear a chip on your shoe or bib to determine your exact racing time), if there are t-shirts and/or medals included, and what the course looks like (Hilly? Flat? Dirt trails? Closed roads? Etc.) These are all personal preferences, but I always like to make sure the race is timed and that I get at least a t-shirt for my race fee.

Once you have chosen a race, you can usually take advantage of “early bird” specials, which means the cost is cheaper if you sign up further in advance.

The Expo/Packet pick-up—Depending on how large your chosen race is, there may be an Expo you can attend. This is where you will pick up your “packet” (bib with your number on it, race shirt, and anything else the race wants to give you); there are also vendors from running –related companies that have booths set up where you can shop. You can find everything from GU gel packets to running clothes and shoes to headbands and bumper stickers. Usually the Expo will be the day before the race.

At the Expo for the Detroit Marathon, in front of a map of the course

Preparing for race day—I like to get my outfit laid out and ready to throw on the morning of the race. You may want to pin your bib to your shirt; charge your iPod and/or running watch; lay out your shirt, pants/shorts, socks, shoes, hat, etc; and double check to make sure you have everything. I also like to make sure I drink plenty of water the day before a race so that I am well-hydrated. If you’re doing a longer race, then you may want to eat more carbs than usual for a few days leading up to the race. You also will want to make sure you know where to go on race day—where to park, how to get to the starting line, etc.

The morning of the race—I set my alarm to wake me up about an hour and a half before I have to leave, so there isn’t any rushing around last-minute. I leave early enough so that if there is traffic, I won’t be late. Sometimes I get to races much too early, but I’d rather be early than late. Once you park, you can go use the bathroom, walk off nerves, or stand around at the starting line.

The race itself—Larger races will usually assign you a “corral” at the starting line, based on your projected finish time. The faster people in the front, slower people in the back. If there aren’t corrals, you should try and put yourself where you think you may line up (if you’re running five minute miles, go to the front; if you’re walking, go to the back; somewhere in-between, just try and make your best guess).

The announcer will usually tell you how many minutes until the start. When the gun sounds, it may take a couple of minutes to get to the actual starting line (it has taken me anywhere from one minute to 30 minutes to get to the starting line—depending on how big the race is). Once you cross that line, your “chip” will start your personal timer, and you can go!

The most important advice I can give you is to not start out too fast. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement, and feel like everyone is passing you, but just stick with what you’re comfortable with. At my first race, I could have sworn that I saw thousands of people passing me, and I felt panicked. But chances are, you will not be last—and even if you are, so what? You’re doing a race, which is a fantastic accomplishment!

During the race, there will be water stations with volunteers handing out water or sports drinks. It’s up to you whether to walk through them, run through them, or not stop at all. I can’t drink from a tiny cup and run at the same time, so I walk for about five seconds and throw it back, then start running again. I always make sure to say “thank you” to the volunteers.

When you get to the finisher’s “chute” (the last part of the race before the finish line), make sure you look up and smile, because there will usually be a photographer taking photos as you cross. Once you cross the finish line, there will probably be water and snacks for you to grab, and possibly a spot to get your photo taken.

And that’s it—congratulations! I can almost guarantee that you’ll be looking up your second race as soon as you get home.

No Regrets

Written on November 6, 2012 at 10:30 am , by

Silver Comet Trail Half Marathon 2012I  recently finished my second half-marathon.

I wasn’t sure up until a week before if I was even going to do it.  I went back and forth about IF my body was ready to run another half marathon.

You see, I am a planner.  I like to make a plan and stick to it.  I had an 8-week training plan and I missed a few of the long runs.  This caused doubt in my head that I wasn’t ready.

I did two 10 mile runs on the last two Sundays and those went well.  I was slower than I had run them before but I still ran them in a decent time.

It wasn’t until the Sunday before the race that I decided I could in fact do it and I would run it.

I wasn’t going to break any personal records.  I wasn’t going to get out there and be miserable the whole time I was running.  I decided I would enjoy the race, walk if I needed to, and enjoy the beautiful fall weather.

That’s exactly what I did.

I finished about 10  minutes later than my first half-marathon but you know what, I finished.  And…I enjoyed it!

I allowed myself to go at the pace that was right for me.  I allowed myself to enjoy the beautiful fall weather and the trail I was on.  I allowed myself to just be in the moment.

And I finished.

Later that afternoon, I was sitting down having a moment of silence for the morning I had just had.  I sat there thinking, “This moment would have happened whether I ran that race or not.”  The good thing was, I was sitting in that moment with no regrets.  I did it.  I doubted it, but in the end, I did it.

I lived with no regrets.

I think this is pertinent to so many areas of life.  Things come up daily and decisions must be made.  Ask yourself next time you are making a major decision, “Will I regret the decision I make?”  Make sure you live with no regrets.

I don’t regret joining Weight Watchers almost 4 years ago.

I don’t regret doing my first half marathon or my second.

I don’t regret signing up for my fourth Gobble Jog on Thanksgiving morning.

In general, I don’t EVER regret a workout or a good health decision.

The only regrets I have are the ones where I make an unhealthy decision for me and my body.

I want to encourage you to…Live with no regrets.

 

Jennifer Swafford writes about weekly weigh ins, healthy recipes, product reviews, and weight loss at It Sux To Be Fat. Follow her journey on Twitter or Facebook as she goes through life’s ups and downs and takes her new healthy lifestyle one day at a time.

Failure to Plan

Written on September 4, 2012 at 9:54 am , by

Failing to Plan is Planning to FailOne of the major keys – Possibly THE major key to weight loss is one simple word.

P-L-A-N

In everything you do, you must go in with a plan.

First, let’s talk Food.

  • Breakfasts are pretty foolproof because there are so many options of grab and go. Even if I don’t plan breakfast, I can still be successful. I usually stick with oatmeal which is a quick two minute prep.
  • Lunches are another story. If I don’t plan my lunch the night before, my only choice is to either have the hubs bring me something or eat school food (blah…no thanks!). Lunch must be planned out and MADE the night before. If I don’t make it the night before, then I run the risk of either running late to work or not having a lunch.
  • Snacks are the same as lunches. If I don’t pack one, I don’t have one.  With my job, it is a little tricky sometimes because I don’t have the option of running out to get something. Either I have it or I do without.
  • Dinners – THE BIGGEST PROBLEM IF I DON’T HAVE A PLAN!  Sure, I can always stop at the grocery store on the way home and pick up something to make. However, the reality is that I am usually too tired to think that hard. I have to have a plan. Not only do I have to have a plan, I have to grocery shop ahead of time and have the food ready and available.

This has really tripped me up this past week. I didn’t really have a plan so we ate out almost every night. FAIL!

I am going to make this one of my goals for September – Plan meals and grocery shop on the weekends for the upcoming week!

Now, let’s talk Exercise

Planning is so important when it comes to exercise. Without a plan, I tend to make excuses and do without.

My best exercise program that I REALLY stuck to was when I was training for my half-marathon. I think because it was written on a calendar, I did it. I worked out every time I was supposed to! It was awesome!

With my job, I have to plan ahead to exercise by packing my workout clothes in my car. If I don’t pack them, I have the perfect excuse NOT to workout. After I get home, I have dinner, dishes, lunches and then bed…no time for working out. I have to workout BEFORE I get home.  Without workout clothes, that is not going to happen!

For the month of September, I will be training for another half marathon so hopefully I will rock the exercise!

When it comes to being successful in weight loss, eating and exercise are your two biggest worries. If you eat right and exercise, the weight will come off.

When it comes to planning and weight loss, eating and exercise are your two biggest worries. If you plan for your eating, and plan for your exercise, the weight will come off!

Remember…A failure to plan is planning to fail. What steps will YOU take this month to plan for success?

 

Jennifer Swafford writes about weekly weigh ins, healthy recipes, product reviews, and weight loss at It Sux To Be Fat. Follow her journey on Twitter or Facebook as she goes through life’s ups and downs and takes her new healthy lifestyle one day at a time.

Find Your Greatness

Written on August 13, 2012 at 10:22 am , by

I don’t know about you but I was all into the Olympics this year.  I was really into it at the beginning when the gymnastics and swimming were going on.  The track and field was amazing too!  The speed of the runners makes me envious.  I am a bit of a slow runner so to see them running that fast is truly impressive!

One night while watching the Olympics, I saw this commercial:

Wow!  What a great commercial!  Some of my favorite points of the commercial are:

  • Greatness IS for everyone - NOT just a chosen few.
  • It is within all of us.
  • We are all capable of it.
  • All of us.

“Even me?!?  I am capable of greatness?  But I weigh over 250 pounds.  I can barely walk to my mailbox without breathing heavy.  Forget walking up a flight of stairs.  How can I have greatness?!?”

Let me repeat…GREATNESS-IS-FOR-EVERYONE!  That means you.

It Sux To Be Fat Half MarathonIf you would have told me three and a half years ago, weighing 275 pounds that I would run a half-marathon, I would have said you were crazy.  I would NEVER be capable of doing anything that great.

Oh, I am going to lose 100 pounds?!  Sure…right!  No way.  Greatness is not for me.  I am destined to be overweight the rest of my life.

Oh, now you are telling me that I am going to start a blog and have thousands of followers and people tell me daily that I am an inspiration to them?  Now you are just plain crazy!

Well…guess what?!?  All of that happened and so much more!  Like the commercial said, it was always within me.  I was capable of greatness.  Even weighing 275 pounds and taking naps on the couch every afternoon.  It was within me.  I just had to find it.

Guess what?!?  It is within you too!  All you have to do is find it!

 

Jennifer writes about weekly weigh ins, healthy recipes, product reviews, and weight loss at It Sux To Be Fat. Follow her journey on Twitter or Facebook as she goes through life’s ups and downs and takes her new healthy lifestyle one day at a time.

Non-Mileage Fitness Goals: Set ‘Em!

Written on August 1, 2012 at 12:01 pm , by

Most runners LOVE to keep count. We track miles, minutes, and maybe even calories burned. But numbers can drive us crazy, too.

I think it’s important for runners to also set non-mileage goals because – trust me – you can’t always be increasing mileage and speed.  Even if you’re not prone to injuries like me, sometimes life gets in the way. Work ramps up or a new baby arrives. And sometimes, you just get burnt out on running and need time to focus on something besides the numbers.

When it comes to setting non-mileage fitness goals, I think it’s important that the goal is somehow quantifiable (or, in the very least, you decide in advance how you’ll know you’ve achieved it). Here is a list of non-mileage goals, some of which I’m currently working towards myself:

  • Train yourself to do a certain number of push-ups or sit-ups.
  • Do a plank for a certain amount of time.
  • Take a 30-Day Yoga / Zumba / Whatever-Floats-Your-Boat Challenge:  The key with long challenge like this is to build in room for error. Instead of saying you’re going to go to yoga for 30 straight days, say you’ll do 25 yoga workouts over 30 days.
  • Learn how to do indoor rock climbing.
  • Take dance lessons.
  • Learn to do a headstand or crow’s pose.
  • Become more flexible (for example, touch your toes or go into a split).
  • Increase arm strength to the point where you can do a chin-up (or two).
  • Regularly meditate.
  • Learn how to swim.
  • Start cycling for distance.
  • Bench-press a new weight.
  • Go for a walk every night before dinner.
  • Last through an entire hot yoga class without having to take a break.
  • Do all your housework to music and dance to the beat.
  • Stand up every 30 minutes and walk around your office.

I also think it’s a great idea to set non-mileage, non-fitness goals during injury, such as reading a new book each week or learning to sew.

What non-mileage goal are you currently working towards? 

Caitlin blogs at Healthy Tipping Point and Operation Beautiful.  You can follow her on Twitter at CaitlinHTP. Her second book, a guide to healthy living, was just released this past May.

Beat the Heat: Tips Runners Should Remember

Written on July 27, 2012 at 3:35 pm , by

It’s so easy to get intimidated by the summer heat and decide to just bring your run indoors on the treadmill. Summer running can be enjoyable, if you can avoid overheating. Running during the summertime makes you think of the sun beaming down on you and sweat dripping down your face.

Most importantly, when you think of summer running, you may consider the safety precautions that may be taken like wearing sunscreen. Whatever you think of when you consider summer running, it is always a great thing to do. Running outside in the summer gives you a chance to get some fresh air and a good exercise at the same time. (Click to keep reading!) Read more

5 Great Race Signs

Written on July 19, 2012 at 10:49 am , by

Sure, running a race is the best, but spectating is pretty cool, too.  And to be a great spectator, you need an amazing sign. Here are five of my favorite race signs from over the years.

Here’s a few posts about racing from Healthy Tipping Point:

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Caitlin blogs at Healthy Tipping Point and Operation Beautiful.  You can follow her on Twitter at CaitlinHTP. Her second book, a guide to healthy living, was just released this past May.

On Behalf Of All the 10+ Minute Mile Runners

Written on July 13, 2012 at 11:54 am , by

I know that for many of you who read Fitness Magazine, running a 10 minute mile is no big deal. In fact, you may be like my husband who says it is physically painful for him to run as slow as I run.

So on behalf of all the 10+ minute mile runners out there, I have a few things I’d like to tell the rest of the world.

1. Yes, we ARE running.

It’s true. You may be able to walk as fast as we are running. It may look like a slow jog to you, but we are giving it all we’ve got. Please do not insult us by telling us we are not really running. We are giving it everything we’ve got.

2. It is OUR race too.

At a recent 10k race, we ran on roads that had to have some level of vehicle access. The volunteers did an awesome job of directing traffic. The drivers, however, weren’t so kind. I actually had a UPS driver honking at us, tell us to stop so he could get through. ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? You know there is a race going on! I turned and yelled at him, “I am having the best 10k of my life! PLEASE do not do this!” Less than half a mile from the finish line, a volunteer directed a car to cross across the road in a gap in front of me. It would have been just fine – except that the car behind him went too, blocking my access to the road. I got SO mad. I ran around the car, smacking it with my hand as I went past. Childish? Probably. I couldn’t believe that I had run over 5.5 miles without walking but that car tried to get in my way. It was as though I wasn’t even racing. As if I didn’t matter.

True, I may not have been racing against others in the race itself. The first place runner had long since finished. But I was in a race – against myself. Against the voices in my head telling me it would be easier to walk. Against those feelings of self-doubt. Of not feeling good enough. And you know what? I won that race!

3. We can use some encouragement too.

Sometimes it’s easy to cheer for the people running a ridiculous 5:20 mile on the race course. And yes, I’m sure they appreciate the cheers too. But please save some for those runners gutting out a 12 minute mile.

You don’t know their battle – what they have overcome. You may be tired of cheering by the time we pass by a half hour later, but please muster up a cheer. You never know how much your encouragement might mean to someone!

Any other 10+ Minute Mile Runners have something you’d like people to know? Please share! 

—-

Callie, 29, is a working mom in Venice, Florida who blogs about her journey to a healthier lifestyle and hopes to inspire a few other “wannabe athletes” along the way. You can follow her on Twitter at @AthleteWannabe or on Facebook at  /TheWannabeAthlete.

Making Peace with the Dreadmill

Written on July 6, 2012 at 3:11 pm , by

Dreadmill.

While it’s not in the dictionary, I would guess that most runners are familiar with that made-up word–a combination of the feeling of dread and the torture device that we know as a treadmill.

The first time I ran on a treadmill, I was so bored I wanted to shoot myself after just 5 minutes. I couldn’t even fathom running a single mile on a treadmill, let alone MILES (plural). I have no idea what possessed me to fork over $700 for the modest hamster wheel that I bought, but it was a hot day, and I thought, “Anything is better than running in this heat!”

Anything except the dreadmill, I quickly learned.

Over the past couple of years that I’ve been a runner, I’ve avoided using the treadmill like I avoid taking my kids to Chuck E. Cheese’s on a Saturday. Or returning something to Wal-Mart the day after Christmas. Or…well, you get the picture. (click to keep reading…) Read more

5 Ways to Beat the Heat

Written on July 2, 2012 at 10:45 am , by

Hello, everyone! My name is Caitlin, and I blog at Healthy Tipping Point, which was selected for a Fitterati for Best Healthy Living Blog. I’m 28 years old and live in Charlotte, North Carolina. I love to do triathlons and run, although I’m on a bit of a hiatus because I just had my first baby on June 12.

If your location is anything like North Carolina, you’re in the middle of a heat wave. Temperatures here are supposed to top 105 degrees for the next five days – ouch! I’m used to the heat – I was born and raised in Florida – but such high temperatures certainly make outside exercise challenging.

Click through to read my five tips for exercising outdoors in the heat.

Read more