Monday, November 19, 2012

The World is Your Oyster...
Greetings and Salutations!

I think Shakespeare must have been a runner.

What?  You think I'm wrong?  Alas, if you look into the lines of his play, "The Merry Wives of Windsor," you would know that one of this characters delivers the line, "Why, then, the world's mine oyster, Which I with sword will open."  Surely he's talking about running, and running long distances, isn't he?

Okay, so maybe Shakespeare wasn't a runner, but I think those of us who are into fitness can utilize that adage in our own lives.

You see, if you've ever shucked an oyster, you know how challenging it can be.  You can pry away at that outer shell for hours on end, and that bad boy isn't going to open without a fight.  That barrier is our challenge, and in order to revel in what's inside the oyster, you have to be able to fight through that hard outer shell.

For the last year, I've been running, and I'm going to be completely honest.  It's STILL not easy.  In fact, I ran a half marathon two weekends ago and I thought my legs were going to fall off somewhere between miles 9 and 10.  I finished the race wondering, "Why do you do this?"

The answer isn't so easy.  Do I do it because I LOVE to run?  Absolutely not.  I don't love running at all.  In fact, there are days when I despise every. single. step. I. take.  BUT, I do love some aspects of the entire running process.  I LOVE the way I feel after a 10+ mile training run.  I LOVE finishing a run under a time goal that I've set.  I LOVE when I'm somewhere in a long run and I think, "Wow, this almost feel easy today."  In addition, I LOVE crossing a finish line and having a medal draped around my neck.  It's like my own personal Olympic Games.  I also LOVE the people I've met along the way.  It's a pretty cool experience to be grinding around 13.1 miles with people who encourage and cheer and joke and commiserate.

At this time, I've run 3 half marathons.  My times haven't been world beaters, I can only run (I know, I know...that word "only") about 7 or 8 miles without having to stop to give my legs and my lungs a 30 second break, and 13.1 miles HURTS.  I could train and improve my half marathon time and it would be a great goal.  The thing is...there's that oyster left staring at me. Nobody at the shucking table could get through his shell.  It even looks as though he may be mocking at me, saying, "Neener, neener, nee-ner."

I think I've just started to open the oyster that is my world.  To me, it would make tremendous sense to keep improving and keep training to work on my half marathon goal of finishing in under 2 hours (right now I'm running between a 2:12-2:16 half marathon).  Yet I set my eye on the biggest oyster at the shucking table, the one who places his little oyster fingers in his ears and sticks his tongue out at me.  Why run for 13.1 when you can run for 26.2?  You see my logic, right?

Today I signed up for the Columbia (SC) full marathon on March 9th.  I have my 18 week training schedule mapped out, and I'm currently 2 days into week #3.  When I come out on the other side, when I get through that oyster shell, I will be a stronger and better person because of fight. I'm sure there will be days when I wonder what I've done.  Days when I wish I hadn't set this goal.  On March 10th, I'm pretty sure it will all be worth it.

My mom thinks I'm nuts.  My sisters say that if I'm going to run one, that I had better get it done before I'm their age!  My high school friend and marathoner, Angela, has been an incredible motivation (and the one that told me to just quit thinking about it and sign up already!) and sounding board.  And my husband always opens the door for me after a long weekend run, smiles and says, "Everybody stand back.  Stand back.  There's an athlete coming through."

Maybe he's right because the world is my oyster.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Running isn't my thing...but I do it anyhow
Greetings and salutations everyone!! As you probably could tell from the absence of my blog over the summer, I hung up my running shoes in late April and didn't dust them off again until July. I had every intention of running 3-4 miles two or three days per week during the summer, but I'm going to be honest. It's hot in South Carolina in May, June and July (and August and September!), and I just didn't feel like it.

The dilemma, though, is that I signed up for a half marathon late last spring, and the day of the half (Nov. 4) started staring me in the face come late July. I just knew I had to get started, so I did. During that first week back, three miles was a horror. hurt, I got blisters, and it felt like I was running into a wall of heat every step.

Alas, I had to keep trucking on. There's NO WAY my sister would let me back out of running the City of Oaks half marathon with her. I think it's something that my mom instilled in us as kids. If you agree or sign up for something, you ARE going to do it. No ifs, ands, buts or hot weather about it.

So I ran...three days per week. Late July and August were misery. Every. single. Step. Tuesdays and Fridays are my 'easy' days where I only run 3 or 4 miles. Sundays are my long runs where I build and build until two weeks prior to the half. Today I ran almost 8 1/2 miles. You'd think by now running would seem easy and that I'd like it. Yeah, you'd think that...

I have yet to feel that 'runner's high' that everyone talks about. Every step for me is a mental game. Even going downhill, which should be easy, requires having to force myself to pick up the pace and not dog it. When I'm starting to tire and I want to take a walk break, I have to push myself to keep going. I make deals with myself. "If you get to the 3rd mailbox up ahead, you can stop." Third mailbox arrives and I ask myself, "Are you truly out of breath or just hurting a bit?" It's generally the 2nd, so I make another deal. "Okay, when you get to the Lakes and Streams sign, you can walk." I play this game for miles and miles. When does it get easy? When will I love to run?

Now don't get me wrong. I don't hate to run. If I absolutely abhorred it, there's no way I would lace up my shoes. So why does someone who doesn't like running keep doing it...and for 13 miles?! Running isn't easy...I'll never be one of those people who just looks like they float as they run. In fact, when I run, I look as though I'm dragging an anvil in my pants. That said, I do like physical challenges. If I did 12 push ups on my toes yesterday, I assure you I'll do 13 the next time I do them. I don't like to slide backwards. Running is about setting challenging goals that are realistic, and achieving them. That, for me, is what it's about.

A few weeks ago I was out running 3 miles and got caught in a deluge about 1 1/4 miles from home. In the time it took me to run home, my Droid phone (that I use for my running app, Endomondo, and my music) was completely fried. There was no saving it. Fast forward a week and my replacement arrived in the mail. I wasn't about to start running with it again for fear of ruining it as well. I have an i-pod touch, though, that I could use for music, but without the GPS function available, I'd lose that voice that tells me how many miles I'd run, how fast I'd run them, and when I'd met my goal for the day. WHAT WOULD I DO WITHOUT HER VOICE IN MY EAR?

I've found that not having the GPS might actually be a good thing. After running near my house for the past 11 months, I know the approximate distances of my 'loops,' so I have a pretty good idea how far 8 miles is. The nice thing about goal setting, though, is that you can push yourself when you don't have that little voice saying "Your workout is complete. Good job." There's no one telling you to stop.

Today I didn't want to short myself on my run. I wanted to make sure I got 8 miles in, so I added one extra 3/10 of a mile loop at the end. I was exhausted and my butt was dragging, but you know what? My 8 mile run turned into an 8.44 mile run. How about that? It didn't kill me, either, and in the end, is going to make that half marathon in November that much easier.

I'm signed up for another half marathon in late February. I'd really like to run that one close to the the 2:00 mark. In order to do that, though, I really need to accomplish something during my training runs. My typical 7+ mile route takes me through a neighborhood near mine called Lakes and Streams. Obviously there are lakes and streams in it! My run takes me to the far end of the neighborhood right around mile 5 and then I have to loop around and head back to my own neighborhood. From that point, it is uphill for just over one of the 1.25 miles back to my house. There's a short steep section, followed by a gradual climb for 3/10 of a mile, followed by "the hill." The hill busts your butt just to walk up. I can't even imagine running up it, particularly because there's the 4/10 of a mile climb prior to it, the 2/10 steep, steep, steep climb up the hill, followed by another 4/10 gradual climb, a tiny breather, and another steepish climb for 2/10 of a mile and then downhill that last bit to the house (where I stash my water and a Gu gel). If I can conquer that section of my run without having to stop and pick up my left lung, I can meet my Augusta half goal in February because the Augusta half has the Patridge Inn hill right around mile 4-5. It's steep and it's long. If you want to make time, you have to be prepared for that.

So, if you live in Lakes and Streams, I'll be the one running up that hill all winter. If you see me, honk, wave and cheer me on. I'd love the encouragement.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Time for a RESET!
Greetings and salutations my friends! Don't you love it when your computer freezes? You mash on key after key, trying to get some semblance of life out of it, hoping beyond hope that something miraculous will occur that will breathe life back into it. You know the feeling, right? And you know the inevitable next step...Control...Alt...Delete.

My body was my computer. Stuck. Frozen. Paralyzed. I was in a rut nutritionally, making some bad choices that just made me feel 'icky' (for lack of a better word), didn't have great energy, didn't have motivation (though I was still working out 5 days per week), and just needed somebody to lean over and say, "Enough!" while hitting a reset button.

Fortunately, there's a 21-day program designed to do just that called Ultimate Reset. Beachbody, the same company that created P90X, Insanity, ChaLean Extreme, Turbo Fire, and a ton of other fitness programs (most of which I've done since I'm a coach for the company), put together a program designed to release toxins from your body, reset your metabolism, and teach you to listen to what food says to you. Some of my friends had done the program, and I knew it wasn't going to be a walk in the park...headaches, muscle pains, new was a bit daunting, but the benefits at the end piqued my interest: lower cholesterol, lower body weight, more energy, no bloaty belly. I was in. My husband, however, thought I was nuts.

The nice thing about the program is the support. There are Facebook groups for each of the 3 weeklong phases and Dr. Wheeler, the creator, even posts and answers questions on there. In addition, the guidebook is phenomenal, with recipes for each meal along the 21-day journey, and the online resource/webpage and e-mail newsletter all provide tremendous insight, support and encouragement along the way. I assure you, that support is VITAL...there will be days when you need it.

The first thing I noticed when I began was that the food prep took a lot of time. I invested in a really good chef's knife and bamboo cutting board. My husband about fainted when he saw I paid $29.00 for a knife (I told him that I could have spent $100 instead!), but that knife actually MAKES me want to eat better! As the Reset progresses, you'll completely eliminate animal products from your diet, and by week #3, you'll find yourself following a vegan eating plan. That scared me a bit (it actually scared me a lot--I grew up in the Midwest on a farm. I'm a meat and potatoes kind of girl), but I found that vegetarian/vegan eating is tasty and actually makes your body feel SO much better in the long run.

In addition, there are supplements that come with the program...prebiotics, probiotics, alkalanize, detox, oxygenize, etc. that you take in different phases of the program. Many of the foods that are common in the diets of many people today put the body into an acidic state. What we truly need, in order to help prevent disease and other health issues, is to do our best to keep our body in a more neutrally balanced Ph.

So how did I do with my reset?

The first three days were a bit of a horror...I had a SPLITTING headache. Yes, my morning coffee addiction required a bit of caffeine withdrawals. I'm glad I was down to only one cup of coffee and hardly any soda prior to the reset. I can't imagine the headaches if your caffeine consumption was much higher than mine was. After the headaches relinquished, I felt pretty good for a few days, but everyone that I was chatting with on the Ultimate Reset Facebook pages warned of body aches as the body's detoxification was underway. Everyone's body detoxes in different ways...most people commented on lower back pain and pain in their legs. I experienced something a little different.

Right around day 8, I started feeling this nagging 'tweak' in my right shoulder. I thought that was a bit odd because I hadn't been working out at all (other than walking my dogs) since I began the reset. As the next day rolled around, the tweak became an ache and by the end of day 9, it was painful. I had difficulty sleeping that night, and the next day the arm was tingly and on a pain scale of 1-10, it was an 8+. It was agony it hurt so bad.

 I volunteer at a local humane society, and while I was there on day 10, I ran into a massage therapist. I explained what I was going through and she worked on my shoulder for a bit. She asked a few questions about my workout programs and if I ever got tendonitis in my right arm ("Why yes, I get it in my elbow when I do pullups"). Well...all of those months of working through the tendonitis, not stretching properly, and making the other muscles in my arm work harder because the bicep couldn't do the job had come back to haunt me now. I never felt as though I had 'injured' the arm, but my body was doing some serious 'release' of something at that point in time. She left me with some stretches to do and I have been doing them religiously since. The pain mysteriously vanished on day 12 and the mobility in my shoulder was better than ever!

As I was going through the 4 days of pain, I chatted with others in the support group that had experienced similar bouts of pain in similar areas. It was nice to know that I wasn't some freak, and that my body was doing what it was supposed to be doing...releasing toxins in areas that had been stressed, probably for years.

Venturing into phase 3, I chose not to eat any of the optional grains that are allowed as part of the nutrition plan this last week. There were a few days that I probably should have eaten the grains, but I found along the way that if I ate a mainly fruit and vegetable diet, I wasn't bloated, I never had that feeling of being 'full' and I still had good energy.

When my 21 days came to an end, here are the major things that I've learned. First, vegetables prepared well are really very tasty, and greens aren't so scary if you know what the heck to do with them! I've found that I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE collard greens and kale. Seriously, I could eat collard greens every day. Second, there are foods that were in my regular diet prior to the reset that really don't jive with my body. Sadly, the number one culprit (and this makes me sad beyond belief to say) is oatmeal. I LOVE oatmeal. But post Ultimate Reset, oatmeal automatically made me bloated and gave me that feeling of just being 'full' and feeling icky. I've since switched out my oats with quinoa (which was an okay swap) and today I tried millet (which was FABULOUS!) and I think I won't miss oatmeal so much.

In addition, during the Ultimate Reset, I really learned to slow down and take my time while eating. My palate seems to be able to pick out different flavors when I do so, and leaves me with a feeling of enjoyment with the food I'm eating without any feelings of guilt afterwards. In fact, just this morning I was eating my morning millet with raw honey, toasted walnuts and blueberries. There were 3 or 4 bites left in the bowl, and as my spoon went in after them, my brain said, "You're actually full. You don't HAVE to eat the last bites." It was a bit of an epiphany for me(though I'm sure my grandmother is jumping up and down saying, "Somebody's eyes were bigger than their stomach."). I put the spoon down and didn't go back. That's a bit of a big deal for a 'plate cleaner' like me.

I also have a better sense of how different foods that I've added back in make me feel (see oatmeal story above). I can see myself eating more like this (with a few modifications--I'll more than likely add fish/shellfish back into my eating plan, and the occasional foray with chicken or turkey), but I like how my body feels with a diet with more plant based nutrition.

Now for those of you who like numbers (which I'll admit, I like numbers, too!). I lost just over 8 pounds (and lost another one in the 4 days post reset), two inches off my waist, an inch off my hips and thighs (which was HUGE for hips and thighs are almost always the LAST place that I see changes. I shouted "Amen!" when I read the tape measure), and my belly is no longer bulgy and bloated. I feel more aware, more secure about myself, and I have a sense of pride in what I did.

If you're interested in learning more or want to ask me specific questions, please feel free to contact me. The Ultimate Reset might not be what you're looking's a tough 21 days. But if your body needs to become 'unstuck' from what you've been doing, I think it's well worth every moment you're willing to invest.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

This just in....I might be a runner!
Greetings and salutations everyone! As you may have been able to figure out, I ran a second half marathon, the Palmetto Half Marathon in Columbia, South Carolina, this weekend. Unlike my previous attempt, I wasn't sick for the ten days prior to the run, which, I assure you, was to my advantage! That said, the two weeks leading up the half, my brain really wasn't in training mode. I was pretty ready for the half to be over the day before it began, but on race day, it was quite obvious that I was far more prepared than I thought I was.

I changed up my running schedule a bit after the Augusta Half in late February. I still only ran three days per week. My long run was always on Sunday (building to my longest run of 11.2 miles 3 weeks prior to the half), I did a short, but faster, 3 mile run on Tuesdays with another 2 miles of hill work afterwards where I simply would run up hills in the area that take between 30-60 seconds to climb, walk down, turn around, run up, turn around, run get the picture. I really believe that my Tuesday runs helped my training substantially. Friday runs were generally 4 miles at a leisurely pace. I'll admit, though, that my Tuesday and Friday runs (which I had to do after work) were a BEAR compared to Sunday's runs of 10+ miles. I'm not a huge fan of running at the end of the day. Another thing that I think REALLY helped my ability to chug up the hills in Columbia was that I started a fitness program called Les Mills Pump. It's a strength training program that is very similar to the Body Pump classes offered in gyms around the world. All of those squats, lunges and dead lifts with the barbell really did make a HUGE difference.

My sister (who graciously agreed to run another half with me although she says, "I'm too old for this crap!") and I had to drive to Columbia on Friday evening to pick up our packets and figure out where to go for the race. You wouldn't think it would be difficult to find an indoor sports complex that was next to a large shopping center, but after an hour of driving in circles, we finally found our way! Of course, that meant we didn't get home until after 8:30 p.m. and had to be back on the road at 5:00 a.m. the next day for a 7:00 a.m. start time.

The day was absolutely gorgeous with PERFECT running weather. It was chilly in the morning, but I figured that I'd be warm enough by mile 2...and I was right. I actually ran the first 7 miles non-stop, which is pretty rare for me. There's still something in my head when I run more than 3 miles that tells me I need a very short walk break (we're talking 20 steps of walking) every now and then. I didn't feel the need and had a really good pace for the first 7 miles, even running mile 6 in UNDER NINE MINUTES--Go me!!!

The course was hilly, but didn't involve any butt burners like the two that haunted me during the Augusta Half Marathon. The best part was that once I hit mile 11, I didn't crash and burn like I did 6 weeks ago in Augusta. Sure, I was tired, but I actually felt pretty good, even in the uphills. I finished the last 3 or 4 miles with a great group of people who were all about encouraging one another to keep going. I crossed the finish line strong, and if forced, could have run a few more miles. I'm glad I didn't have to, though!

In Augusta, I finished in 2:18:08 (and according to my GPS app, the course was actually 13.3 miles). In that race, the final 3 miles were pretty pathetic. It was serious agony and I had major battle waging inside of my head in order to force myself to shut up and keeping running. In Columbia, my chip time was 2:12:20 (and according to the same GPS app, the course was 13.39 miles). I had to have a couple chats with my legs during a few uphills, but it was a much better running experience for me. It's quite clear that even though many of my training runs felt as though I was in my own personal hell, the training I did prepared me for the challenge.

Now that the dust has cleared, I think I can say that I am a runner. Do I LOVE it? No, not really, but I do enjoy my runs once I get started and I appreciate the feeling of accomplishment I have after I finish a run. I'm never going to be one of those people where running is 'easy,' but I can definitely put one foot in front of the other and keep going for quite awhile.

What's next, you may be wondering? A month ago, when my running training was going REALLY well, I contemplated a full marathon in the fall. However, that moment of running euphoria vanished about 19 hours after it popped into my head. I just don't know that I want to take the time it would require to be able to run 20+ miles. I'll be signing up for 2 or 3 half marathons in the fall (I'm tentatively looking at a half marathon in Athens, GA in October, the City of Oaks half marathon in Raleigh, NC, in November and the Columbia (SC) half in December). I'll run through the summer just to keep my 'running legs' and start back up with a real training schedule in August.

For those of you who are saying, "I could never do that." Think again. Seven months ago, I couldn't run for 1/2 of a mile. Couch to 5K is a great program for getting a 3 mile base on anyone. From there, the running world is yours based on what you want to accomplish.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Success!!! Now what?
Greetings and salutations everyone!

Well, yesterday was the BIG day...the day of the Augusta Half Marathon. I was a bit worried the week prior to the race as I had come down with some sort of bug that gave me headaches, nausea, achiness, and both head and chest congestion. Rather than try to train through it, I decided that the previous 4 months of training had been good enough. I had run 10+ miles the 2 Sundays prior, and the best thing I could do was just rest. I felt ridiculously guilty doing that, though. You always tend to think that if you can just do one more workout, one more run, do one more of 'something,' and you'll be just that little bit more prepared.

I was up right around 5:00 a.m., wanting to make sure my body had sufficient time to work through my morning oatmeal before an 8:00 a.m. start time. I met my sisters at 6:30, so we could travel over together, and we arrived about 35 minutes prior to race time. Just enough time to do some stretching, hit the port-o-let one last time, drink a bit of water, ditch some extra clothes, and warm up the muscles a bit. We weren't there too long before the 1000+ runners lined up and we were off!

My oldest sister and I stayed together most of the race, but once she crossed the starting banner, my other sister wouldn't be seen for another 13.1 miles (she finished in 2:05!!!). I felt pretty good for the first 10 miles, walking up 2 particularly steep sections of hills, but maintaining just under a 10 minute/mile pace until I hit mile 10. That's when I really started to feel tired. I had to nurse myself through the final 3 miles, and my pace dropped to 11:15-11:40 minutes/mile. That said, I finished in 2:18. I'm happy. I'm also proud of myself for setting the goal, pushing through the training, and finishing in a decent time.

So, now it's over. I got a cool running shirt and medal...what next? At first I thought that I was glad I don't have to train anymore and that I would start a new home fitness program (Les Mills Pump) as my primary workout. But then I started to think...and sometimes my brain makes quick decisions when I start to think about goals and such. I'm already fit. I know what I would do differently if I ran another half marathon. Why not run another?

I'm contemplating another half on April 1st. Another five weeks of training...I'll let you know my decision soon.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

So you call yourself a runner?
Greetings and Salutations everyone! Once again, it's been quite awhile since I've posted to my blog, but I have a REALLY good excuse...I've been running!!!!

Last October I had this fantastic idea. I decided that I was going to run the Augusta Half Marathon on February 26th, 2012. This would mean that I would have to ramp up my running from ZERO miles per week to a point where I could manage 13.1 miles on race day. Easy peasy, right?

I'll be honest...the first 6 weeks were terribly difficult. Just getting to the point where I could run 3 miles non-stop was the biggest challenge thus far. Even now that I'm up to 10+ miles on my long Sunday run, there are days when just running 3 is horribly difficult. I'm now 2 weeks out from the half marathon. I wish I were a little fitter, but I'll be honest...I'm ahead of my training schedule with regards to my long run distance, so I can't complain. I've got 2 more weeks to prepare and I'll prepare my best. I've learned a lot along the way, though, and wanted to share my personal thoughts on 'becoming a runner.'

1. Shoes--DO NOT skimp when it comes to purchasing running shoes. I am truly blessed to have an exceptional running store in my community, Fleet Feet Sports--North Augusta, and their staff and fit policies are out of this world. I've found the PERFECT shoe for me (I wear New Balance 890s) that are lightweight, easy to break in, and provide me great support. I also use an insert (SuperFeet green), which alongside good shoes has allowed me to build distance with absolutely no foot issues whatsoever. Score 1 for me!

2. Chafing--I've been lucky that any irritation I've experienced from running has been minimal, but I have to share because my chafing has GOT to be rare. The first time I had any issues was when I was running 7 miles. I got home and my left eyelid felt like it was on FIRE. Upon closer examination I realized that I had a blister on the outside edge of the lid. I also noticed that my eyelids were REALLY droopy (you do realize I'm almost 41, right, so I am getting older--Eeek!) and that the droopy bouncing eyelid combined with sweat and salt created friction. The result, a blister. ON MY EYELID! My husband and I joked that it would be an excellent reason for an eyelift, but I decided that a cheaper and less painful solution would be to rub a little Glide (sold in running stores as an anti-chafing lube) on my eyelid pre-long run. Works perfectly. If you chafe, be sure that you're wearing clothing that will eliminate it and if needed, get some Glide.

3. Clothes--Speaking of clothing, there's nothing that motivates me to workout more than new workout clothes. Now, you also have to understand a bit about me...I'm most definitely not a petite flower and I do NOT look good in spandex. I've got a big caboose and rather round thighs. And yes, I'm a bit self conscious about them. In addition, running shorts, on my body shape, would require me to purchase Glide in vast quantities and I would spend most of my run pulling them back down around my rather round thighs (see comment above). So, what's a girl to do? I have a two word solution...RUNNING SKIRT! Seriously, BEST CREATION EVER. Mine is a running skirt/capri tight combination which has been perfect for the weather. They're cute as can be, come in basic black or a variety of color combinations. Plus, there's something sort of fun about running and feeling your skirt bounce as you go. Sounds odd, I know, but I swear it's the truth.

4. Motivation--When I run, I have a tendency to play head games with myself. I'm not going to kid you, the thought of running 10 miles sounds horrible whenever I think about it. However, what about 3/10 of a mile? Doesn't that seem more doable? Is sure does to me. When I run, I'm all about breaking things down into sections and I plan my running route with that in mind. There's a fantastic running/biking/walking trail nearby (The North Augusta Greeneway) that would be a great place for long runs. The problem I have with running there, though, is that it would be 5 miles out, turn around, and 5 miles in. The thought of knowing I had to run for 5 miles on a straight stretch of path just seems SO agonizing. It works for some people, but not for me. So, I run in the neighborhoods by my house. I've learned where the sections are that are 3/10 of a mile, 1/2 mile, etc. and as each 'chunk' goes by, there's always a turn to be made, a new neighborhood to go to, and it just seems so much more doable. If I think that I have 6 more miles to run, it has a tendency to take the wind out of my sails, but when I say, "I'ts only another 3/10 of a mile till the next turn," it just seems manageable. Add all those 3/10, 1/2, 1/10, 7/10 sections together, and it still adds up to the same amount.

5. Recording--When I first started running, I downloaded the Couch to 5K app on my phone (I have a Droid). It made life so much easier...I didn't have to keep looking at my watch at how much time had elapsed and it even kept track of my pace as I progressed, announcing it to me at each change. As my mileage increased, I needed an app that could handle the increased distance, and I found it with Endomondo. It uses the GPS on my phone to determine my distance, announces at each mile how far I've gone, what my total time is, what my last mile pace was, and it'll play music. You can set both distance or time goals before your workout (I use the distance goal, but if you know your general pace and you don't want to run the GPS on the phone, the time goal is a good alternative). I LOVE IT! There's something so gratifying when I hear her voice say, "Your workout is complete. Great job."

6. Progress--There are going to be days when running feels like agony and you could swear that someone hooked an anvil to your pants somewhere along the way. I assure you, I've dragged that blasted anvil for MANY miles. That said, there are also going to be days when you feel as though you're running on clouds, when you think it just seems too easy to be exercise. There are so many things that can affect your run...for me, I find running after a day of work to be incredibly difficult. In fact, most days my 3-4 mile runs after work seem more challenging than running 8 miles on Sunday morning. There will be days when you have to walk for 30 seconds at the end of every mile, and days when you don't. Just know that it's normal, that you are making progress even though oftentimes it feels as though you're not. Keep putting one foot in front of the other because...

...I am a runner, and so are you.