Running, Running, Running!

CHAPTER ONE: Where To Begin?
As an experienced runner for over 20 years now, I’ve probably had to deal with most of those 101 challenges at one time or another! When I began my running career, it really came as a result of me breaking my neck playing hockey. Being unable to do any exercise and being inactive for such a long period of time, I gained about 60 pounds and was seriously out of shape. One day when I thought I was ready, I decided to run. I was shocked at how hard this was for me! I could barely make it around the block. This hit me like a brick … this was going to be a long and painfully slow process.

Since my first marathon, New York back in 1995, I have gone on to run over 25 marathons around the world including Boston 4 times, 60+ Ultras, 3 Multi Day races, various 6, 12 and 24 Hour races, the Comrades Ultra Marathon and my favorite run that was not a race … R2R2R … running across the Grand Canyon …and back, of course!
Each of these various races has presented its own set of obstacles - from hills and mountains to rocks and tree roots to heat and elevation.

I’ve also had the pleasure of seeing my wife develop into an awesome Ultra Runner. From having never run before we met 14 years ago, she has now completed over 18 – 100 mile races and finished the Badwater 135 Ultra-Marathon 3 times. I have probably learned as much or more crewing for my wife as I have from my own personal running!

So hopefully this brief background of my running history will lend credence to the fact that the information I’m providing below is coming from first hand experience. Yes, I have been there and done that!

From knowing nothing about running when I began, I learned the hard way in many cases. My curiosity to learn more about what I was becoming so passionate about engulfed me. I learned from reading magazines like Runner’s World, Ultra Running, Trail Runner, and Running Times. I read books on nutrition, cross- training, shoes, clothing, heart rate technology, recovery from injuries and more. I was learning from the best, experts in their various fields that helped me to become more knowledgeable and over the years, I’ve been able to pass these lessons on to friends and fellow runners.

So please understand that this is not about me but only what I’ve learned along the way.

I believe that running is something that everyone is capable of doing. Once upon a time we learned to walk and then as we grew up we ran and ran and then ran some more.

For anyone who wants to start running, my best advice would be to try and not do too much when you decide to start. There are really only two ways to hurt yourself before you’re ready… running too far and running too fast. If you’re a beginner and have to walk for a few minutes, run for a few seconds and build on this to ensure no injuries, then that’s where you have to start. Evaluating your level of fitness is important to knowing where to begin.

Proper shoes are a must. Whether you need a motion-controlled, stability or cushioned shoe depends on your feet. Technology has advanced to the point where a proper analysis done on your posture, gait, foot strike, cadence, arm swing, over and under pronation by a qualified expert would go a long way to starting you off on the “right foot”.

Deciding on that first race is always exciting. Racing should always be fun! The hard part is putting in the training that you need to do to accomplish your goals. That first race, no matter what the distance should be about finishing. A positive experience is a must to keep you going back for more. A negative experience will put you back on the couch.

Setting timed goals for races should come later with some running and racing experience.
I believe it is too much to ask of the novice runner and places on them an unnecessary pressure to perform which also increases the chances of an injury occurring.

As we continue to challenge ourselves and begin to move up in distance and our desire increases to improve on previous race results, new factors enter the picture. Things like sports nutrition, sports drinks, and proper diet become a big part of our daily life once we decide “I am a Runner”. There are many great products out there on the market and you have to find the ones that work best for you. As we are all different in many ways, there is no “magic bullet”. Just like running shoes, there is not one sports drink, power bar, or gel, that’s right for everyone Again I say this because everyone is different. For a proper diet, I would suggest consulting with a health professional or a nutritionist.

As we gain experience, we can continue to experiment and try different things – from the right shoes, to best sports drinks and nutrition, to the proper diet, to comfortable clothing, it all becomes very individualistic. Some eat fish, some don’t, some eat meat, and some don’t. It is truly a combination of our overall lifestyle that has a large and important hand in what’s best for each individual.

However, what becomes more consistent for any runner is the training that must be developed for each personal goal. Once a runner has a set time or distance in mind for their race goal, workouts like hills, stairs, intervals tempo runs, repeats and long runs become fixed parts of any training program. The endurance, speed and intensity will vary depending on the course and the goals that one wishes to achieve.

Also, there are technical devices like Heart Rate monitors that can help to measure your cardiovascular improvement as you continue to train. There are various HR zones that you can train to once you know your Maximum Heart Rate so that you’re not always going full bore. Scales that measure Body Fat can also assist in monitoring your health and overall physical improvement.

Cross –training is very helpful to balance our muscles and avoid unnecessary injuries. When feeling a little sore after a particular hard run, these activities can give our bodies a break. Biking, Swimming, Yoga, Stair-Master, Weights and Pilates to name a few, can all have a positive effect to balance and strengthen our bodies and help avoid injuries

There are many things that we can do to shorten the duration of any injury. Massage Therapist, Acupuncture Specialist, and Chiropractic treatment can be a great help to getting us back on the roads or trails. Hot Baths with Epsom Salts, Wet Steam, Cold Ice Baths and the Hot Whirlpool Tub can all do their part to relieve sore and aching muscles.

Finally, let it be said that injuries do happen. I have had 6 surgeries in the last 6 years not all as a result of running. It mainly requires discipline and patience to overcome the obstacles and injuries and help you to succeed in reaching your goals.

Running is a great activity to be involved with as part of your life, not only for your own personal health but also as a great excuse to travel around the world, see the sights and meet new and interesting people.

Most of all, it’s just fun to get out there!

Jeff Cooper – The Coaching Difference