Monday, April 1, 2019

Cannot Get Your Shoes Out! Special Running Episode!

Yup, it's ONE of those days.
They see me rollin'...
I'm not going to pretend I know anywhere near as much about running as Eric does about gardening, but I'll give a few bits and pieces about it, why I do it, anything I can offer about getting started, etc.  It's April now, and that means winter is.... handwavey over.  Time to get outside, get that beach bod, or at least get closer to one.
I'm gonna miss the pizza too, buddy.
I like doing it through running.  I just sorta fell into it back in college because of my stubborn, stupid nature.  How hard can running 3 miles be? Answer: rilly, rilly, hard if you're not prepared for it.  Let's stop the introductory jokes and all and actually get to this.

Why Running?
So, for those of you who've met me, I don't generally look like a runner.  I am not a stick, nor am I 6 feet tall so I can move faster during it and all.  I.... look vaguely like that Rancor Keeper up there.  Maybe more hair, haha.  Pizza is delicious, as is ice cream and chocolate.  Running lets me eat badly 2-3 days a week (should be less) while taking care of myself 5-4 of them (SHOULD be 5, pushing towards 6.  Welcome to April, so it's time to get back into health, John!).  I've been running for at least 13-14 years solidly, so I'd consider myself a very fancy beginner.  I've run 4 marathons (3 Chicago, 1 Madison WI) with my 5th scheduled for this fall.  It's an activity that is nothing BUT you.  Cardio is nothing but your ability to go forward, pushing those last miles.  When I start talking running below, a lot of the below can apply for biking or swimming or whatever, or using the elliptical, but it's really a matter of what works best for you.  Running lets me get out of my own head for a bit while simultaneously getting healthier while doing it.
And now in a bit of a special guest star, I'm going to turn things over to Eric's Wife, who is going to
offer her opinion on anything she wants.  Considering she got Eric and me to get off our butts and
actually START this blog 2 years ago, she gets free rein.  She's a runner as well, but as a woman she
can offer a unique perspective that I as a guy don't have (She'll talk sports bras, LADIES).  Anything
she says will be in green. We like green, right? It’s one of those soothing, nonjudgmental colors.
Which hey, on that note. . .
(we have known since 1999 that tits don't make a woman)

As a boob-haver myself, I am happy to advise other boob-havers, but do wish to acknowledge that all boob-havers do not identify as women and that all women do not have breasts! But more on mammaries later. Back to you, John. 

Benefits of it?
I am not a doctor, but hey, losing weight lets you be sexier to your significant other/local singles in your area.  I hear they're into you!  It's also better for your health and will keep you alive longer, and again, I've been able to justify eating what I want and enjoy my life while doing so.  I will also say that it's one of the easiest ways I've found to lose weight.  Consistent running and eating well (so 6 of one, half dozen of the other?) allowed me to drop 20 pounds a few years back.  It... may have come BACK, of course, but I've got some motivations to drop this weight.  But that's a later story.

For me, the impetus to start doing it was just being tired of being so chubby in college.  Freshmen Fifteen will wreck you, especially as pasta is like the only appetizing looking thing some days.  So I grabbed a pair of gym shoes and just went out there with a Walkman.  Yes, a Walkman.  Music was on CDs back in those days of... 2003-2007.  Shut up, I know I'm a luddite.  From there it's literally been a nearly 15 year cycle of "move somewhere new, increase running distance as present distance doesn't feel like enough."  Three miles at U of C, 4 at Purdue, 5 at Kalamazoo, 6 in Cleveland, and then 7 when I moved back to Chicago.  Yeah, I run 6-7 miles twice a week (again, it should really be three times, but I'm busy, guys!) and while tiring, it feels exhilarating when I do it.  Just knowing that I CAN is great.  But you don't have to be me to start! You can be you, and that's fine!
Honestly, it’s probably better that you’re you, rather than being John. One of him is enough.
It's a long-RUNNING joke, wokka wokka!
How to Start?
The lazy and incredibly unhelpful answer is you just go out and DO it.  Running as an exercise is something we as a species have been doing for ages.  Something something chasing down jaguars and punching tapirs and stuff.  We fought and killed Tyrannosaurs (Ed: No we didn't) after running up to them!

But the MORE helpful answer is: get a good pair of shoes.  Your local running store (local the more gentrified your neighborhood is) should be able to sell you several pairs of running shoes.  HOKA, Brooks, Mizuno, these are all good brands (I personally swear by Brooks).  These are running shoes made by running companies for runners.  Notice I did not say Nike or Adidas or any of that.  Major companies make shoes for "the average foot" and that may or may not be you.  I don't pronate normally, so I use Brooks.  That sentence is the fancy runner way of saying "I land on the outsides of my feet, so I pick a shoe that helps me correct that so I don't eff up my feet more than I already do."
Told ya.  And it's really hard getting the cloven hooves in there as well
Your FANCIER running stores will even have special treadmills that tell you how you stand and walk/run so the right shoe for you is X or Y (this is called gait analysis, as it... analyzes your gait).
It may be literally this simple as a camera behind you on a treadmill.  It WORKS though, I swear.
For a more in-depth bit of this, I'm going to link to a longer description of it.  Feel free to go down the rabbit hole there when you get interested.

But here's the thing about running shoes.  Your Nikes or Adidas will do fine for a bit.  If you're getting started in the hobby, don't go drop $100 on a pair of shoes until you're sure you want to do this a bunch more.  WHEN you decide you want to do more running and all, then yeah, spring for the shoes.  Don't bankrupt yourself into a new hobby unless you're sure of it.  I DO it, and I replace my shoes every 6 months, as they wear the heck out.  But I get WORK out of them until they die.  Considering I don't spend much else on running as a hobby, that breaks down to roughly $15-$20 a month in shoe cost, which isn't bad when you look at it like that.  Find the shoe that's comfortable for you.  That's your best running shoe.
And of COURSE you need the fancy lululemon pants and zipzop shorts and and and NOPE.  I LIKE the running shorts I have at times, but my usual running pants are a pair of basketball shorts that my mom got out of Target one weekend.  I also have a pair of generic black sport shorts that cost like $4.  Cargo shorts are probably right out, and jorts only belong at Tool concerts.  You can go to a sporting goods store and get a pair or two of these for relatively cheap; I wouldn't recommend going and getting compression shirts and fancy runners shorts and blah blah blah until you're (again) super into the hobby like us dinguses.  The one benefit of light shorts though is its less to carry as you run.  That'll help you later.  The compression shirts and all that are fine, but whatever T-shirt you have lying around that you don't mind getting covered in sweat and/or possibly ruined are fine for a start.  Aim for lighter clothing so you're not carrying extra weight for you.
It's like Finn didn't even listen to us.  But Rey has the right idea!
If you're reading this much later in winter or starting in October, the previous paragraph applies but for basic loaf sweatpants.  With regards to winter wear and what to dress for, the prevailing wisdom I once heard is dress for about 20 degrees warmer.  So if it's 30 out, it'll feel like it's 50 when you're running.  If it's 0, it'll feel 20.  Practically tanning weather!  This is a good way of both making sure you don't get frostbite AND ensuring you don't die of heat stroke.

When you get the inclination to start getting more clothing, a few of those fancy running shirts are helpful, as they wick sweat and let the air flow and most importantly don't chafe my nipples.  WAIT COME BACK!  Yeah, nipple chafe happens and it SUCKS when you're bleeding from them, but a good shirt will help reduce that.
They also make "stickers" you can put over your nipples when you're running a marathon.  No shame, I have used them.
A few pairs of shorts/a few shirts can really go a long way towards letting you run better and more easily.  Wash them as often as you can though.  Running in pre-sweated clothes often sounds like a good way to get bacteria, so, uh, don't?  Helpful, I know.  That being said, I understand that sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do, and it's winter and you only own one pair of running tights.  I get it, just try not to make a habit of it.
Run enough marathons and you can outfit your shirt needs all on your own!

Fun bonus fact with regards to workout clothes: they are easy birthday/Christmas gifts your family can use to support your running habit!  And now, back to Eric’s Wife to talk sports bras!

Not only am I going to talk sports bras, I’m gonna make this extra sexy. That’s right! John foreshadowed it with the nip-nops up there, but we’re going to discuss chafing.
Look upon your new god, my thicc brethren!
Two things are your enemy when it comes to running comfortably for any length of time - chafe, and jiggle. Repeated over and over again, either one of these usually-only-mildly-annoying phenomena quickly pass the threshold of discomfort into actual pain and, eventually, injury. There are so many places the human body can develop blisters! Places one does not even ponder in an average shower! Oh, what a piece of work is man!

Without getting too grisly, suffice to say that a bad case of friction burn can set your training schedule back a ways, and over-jiggled parts can get mighty sore. So in addition to using anti-chafe stick just about anywhere you need (anywhere. this is a safe place. we will not judge), I can recommend the following:
  1. Invest in a base layer that can wick moisture fairly well. This keeps your temperature more stable when you’re bundled up, and it keeps you drier and cooler in the heat. Fun fact - only horses and higher-order primates sweat to keep cool, and our smooth weird skin makes us really good at it! Don’t waste all of evolution’s hard work because you don’t want to shell out for a basic technical-fabric tee shirt.
  1. Socks. I did not see the above mentioned, but my main recommendation for ALL runners in addition to well-fitted shoes is good socks. Any runner can probably spin you horror stories like the classic What Is That Red Stain On The Mesh Toe Of My Sneaker. While that cannot always be prevented, a quality sock cuts down on the likelihood of that happening to you by a good amount.  This is also why I have Eric's Wife here, to remind me of the obvious things that I forgot.  100% get good socks for your shoes.
  1. Fancy compression garments are not necessary, UNLESS there is a jiggle-minimizing comfort aspect. The most famous example of this is the sports bra, which also is far more moisture-wicking (see #1) than a standard bra. This can also apply to tighter-fit running leggings or shorts, or even compression tops. At any distance over a mile you’ll probably start to get an inkling that you might feel better with this kind of garment.
  1. This deserves its own bullet point - some people need two sports bras. That’s okay. Some people need to shop around for a bra that is not too low-cut. Yes it is possible to hit yourself in the face with your own boob. Don’t let this happen to you. If possible, buy your first few bras at a physical retail location and try them on.
The last thing I'll mention that I use is a good hat.  Hat, sweatband, baseball cap, whatever.  I sweat a lot when I run, and it comes out in my hair.  If I don't have a hat or sweatband there, I end up dripping all over my face which is really aggravating when I'm trying to think of how much mileage I have left.  Get an old baseball cap you don't mind ruining and work with that for a start.  Again, you can get you a fancy headband and all, but baseball cap is easier and lazier.
Before You Start: THE PREQUEL

Now that we’ve engaged in some motivation-building window-shopping and gear-fantasizing (because hey, who does not get psyched about all the fun, neon-vomit-colored accessories that their awesome new hobby is going to involve), let’s put a disclaimer out there. Are we ready for Captain No-Fun of the Nag Brigade? Yeah?
Get thee to your annual physical.

For reals. A lot of insurances will pay for an annual physical for an average healthy adult, and if it’s more than a physical, you probably should’ve been in to the doctor’s before now. Especially if you have any difficulty walking around a block at a brisk clip or doing two flights of stairs, talk a running regimen over with your doctor before you go all in on it.
Music/Books/Mind Wandering
So you got shoes and clothes, time to just go running for an hour, right? Hoo boy, no.  You want to be in your own head with nothing but your own thoughts and the chorus to "One Week" for an hour? No, get some music or something, bud.  Eric's Wife (hello!) loves the Zombies Run app, which attaches a story to your runs and lets you get supplies for your civilization after society collapsed after the zombies arrived.  It's pretty fun and gives you motivation every few songs to pick it up, and it interfaces pretty easily with whatever music you have on your phone/iPod/Zune/etc.
All done with lovely British voiceovers!
But the important part there is music.  I know people who do podcasts or listen to books on tape, but for me, motivation comes in the form of music.  Grab something that makes YOU feel good, and go from there.  You're going to be listening to this for a while, so make sure you like it.  I've had to punt several songs from my music that I THOUGHT were good but just became absolute slogs while running.  I've recently added cartoon theme songs, some metal, a little bit of Phil Collins, there's all sorts of stuff on my playlist.  I've written several dumb articles on here about music choices, and I'd be happy to talk suggestions and genres and all with you, just ask me.

The other thing that happens is my mind wanders often during running, and I've built some of my most interesting and sometimes even successful lists during it.  You'd be surprised how fast miles fly by as you add up point costs of squadrons or ships and upgrades.  It HAS become a self-fufilling cycle, though, as I'm not as up on MC75 costs as I should be.  BUT! New season, new lists, new John.  I will also fully admit the last 2.8 miles at Madison last year became a struggle in points costs as I just pushed on.  2.8  became 28 points, so that 10th of a mile became "what's the best 28 points right now I can use?" (Hera, obviously).  Then 2.7 left became 27 points, etc.  There was the Shara/Tycho double tap at 1.7 and 1.6, the Mauler Mithel 1.5, the Lando 0.4 left, the Yelling Hat Man final 0.1, etc... Whatever pushes you through, man.
Madison is a lovely city full of great food, beer, and so many hills that I will never run a marathon there again
But the thing I find the most important is having a motivation for running.  Sometimes it's as simple as "I don't want to be fat no more" (yo) or "I want to get faster" (also yo) or "Revenge!" (once a yo).  Revenge/anger IF focused is good for you.  If the reason you're getting out there is to show that ex-girlfriend you're not just a fat oaf, then yeah, use that.  If you're using it to show that guy from high school that you're better than him and his stupid face, go ahead.  Don't make it literally the only reason you run, but every once in a while "Ugggh, I don't want to run.  But if I do, I can think about how much better I am than CHAD." Then get your Chad-hatred on, man.  If it's to set a good example for your kids, or to prep for a marathon, those are all great, too.  I've got a personal reason for running this year.... but that's another story.

As for motivation, start small and keep improving.  I started 4 years ago with "I want to run the Chicago marathon" and it was a lot of improvements to get there.  I didn't wake up and run 26 miles, there was a fair amount of training and long runs before that.  Similarly, if you're just starting out, train to RUN an entire 5K.  There's couch to 5K programs you can use to get there, and those are great starts.  We'll get to 5K's in a bit.  Fun fact: the first race I ever ran was a 5K 5 years ago.  The second race was the Chicago marathon.  I didn't do baby steps much, hahah! But my motivation wasn't about racing and getting the best times and all (then....) but just being able to finish the marathon.  And I did!  ....And then did about 3 others.
All about that fancy medal life.  And the tee shirts, but those were posted above

For some people, structure is also very helpful in maintaining the drive to continue training! The standard wisdom is that training from nothing to a 5K (3.1 miles for us AMURRICANS) takes at least 8 weeks, which is a long time to devote to anything, let alone something that is probably physically uncomfortable! Having a training regimen planned out, on paper, that you can keep notes on and see your progress can be tremendously motivating in the fourth week stretch of UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGH MOM I DUN WANNA.
When you get out there, if it's REALLY cold or REALLY hot, that first mile is MISERABLE.  You feel like garbage and your body isn't loosened up yet, even if you DID stretch really well.  Power through that first one and you're good.  The first mile always sucks.  You can do it!  I believe in you!
Believe in the me who... well, I've done this joke enough.
Run watches, cross body harnesses for water, bags to carry energy gels, these are all cool and fancy things.  If you're really into caring about your time and all, then get you a fancy watch.  Eric's wife has a belt that carries 2 little thermoses of water to carry with on her run, and my cousin just got me a harness thing for my own use with this.  You can add these all as desired, but these tend towards more "Cool to have, not necessarily needed immediately" in my opinion.

These can be helpful if you are prone to dehydrating, but are also good if you find that thirst starts limiting your performance due to it making runs above a certain mileage flat-out uncomfortable. There are also handheld water bottle holders, which some of my friends enjoy using. Whatever makes the run easier for you.

What is necessary though, you’re following our advice so far, is headphones and something to carry your music player! You can put your phone/ipod/etc in a pocket, though those can get sweaty, so many people like armbands or running belts. Wireless and wired both have upsides and downsides, and I can tell you from my own experience that I enjoy “wireless” (wired together, but bluetooth) headphones, with a backup wired pair for those “derp I had to CHARGE that battery?” days. I like the kind with ear hooks because they stay in place better, but it’s all a matter of personal preference, fit, and style. Try to make it something easy to clean with a wet-wipe, though. Summer is coming.
Where to Run At?
So this is one of the other reasons I asked Eric's wife to join me on this.  I'm a hetero white guy.  Where CAN'T I run? The world is my oyster and nothing bad can happen to me in the suburb I run at that so conveniently is right next door to a CPD station and has like every 3rd house occupied by an officer, detective, or beat cop.  SO WEIRD HOW SAFE IT IS!

But the general answer is that you can do trail runs or street or treadmill.  I personally love street running, as I can see where I'm going and how far I've gone.  It's relatively easy to count miles just based on streets and all, which helps me log the numbers.  Trail runs are much more hilly and bumpy, and you'll use a lot more energy but get a better workout doing it.  Street paths offer more hills that are easier on your legs, but it may involve planning your route out some.  I also like street routes because I can pretend to parkour as needed or pretend I'm running a punt back for a touchdown.  Some people may not like spinning and dodging imaginary tackles; some people are boring, haha.

Haha, you thought you escaped Captain No-Fun?

-well ok. The article is almost over. You very nearly have. But not until I get to be the jerk who reminds us all that we’re still not John, and we can’t all run anywhere, any time and feel totally safe in doing so. I’m in a pretty privileged position myself - white woman in the burbs, hi there - so I know that this still isn’t going to be a perfect disclaimer to all situations and will likely miss a lot of stuff. But for safety’s sake, here’s my rundown (HAW) of safest running practices:
  1. If there absolutely is not a safe outdoor area for you to run in - be that due to inclement weather, human factors, or zombie uprising - a treadmill or running track is your best bet. When it’s icy out around Chicago, I use an indoor track as much as possible.
  1. Easiest thing is just to have a running buddy, if you can find one.  Safety in numbers is real.
  1. For outdoor runs, I like to run any loop a few times in the daytime before I use it at night or the dark hours of the morning. It means I’m familiar with the terrain, which is helpful when visibility is poor, and translates to confident body language that hopefully minimizes likelihood of inviting unwelcome attention. It also lets me scout for streetlights, iffy-looking areas, and my favorite, Angry Dog That Will Bodyslam The Fence While Barking Furiously. Oh Angry Dog, never change! What would my 10 pm run be without me nearly peeing myself!
  1. Not necessary, but running at night in areas with uneven footing, a headlamp can be super helpful. Pepper spray is classic (disclaimer: check legality in your area), and keeping an earbud out at all times keeps you more aware of your surroundings.
And I CANNOT stress this enough, watch out for demons if you happen to run past a crossroads.
So you've started running, you're out there moseying up and down the streets, you're doing it!  But how do you stick with it?

Run Groups!
The thing I like about running is that while it's a purely personal hobby, you can also meet groups of people who like doing it as well.  Again, gentrified neighborhoods help here, but most local running stores have a bunch of people who will be out there as well on some night every week.  I've been at the Monday night run at my local consistently ever since I moved here, and I've made some great friends there.  It's the gym buddy principle in action; if I have someone else counting on me to attend, I HAVE to show up.  I know everyone is going to be there Monday night, so I gotta be there too.  It's also a great place to meet experienced runners who know a lot more than "the Star Wars blog I read about running."  Those runners can offer diet tips and thoughts about shoes or races or any of that.  If running is more of a "you doing introvert time" thing, more power to you.  I remain an extrovert, and I like talking to other people.  Doesn't mean that I still don't listbuild like crazy on my own Wednesday nighters.
Try to make new friends while you run!
Races - 5Ks
Speaking of races, one of the easiest ways to get started running and get out there is by signing up for a race.  Setting a time frame of "I need to be able to run X distance by Y date" will subconsciously force you into motivation.  Even just a regular 5K and saying "I want to run the entire thing" is a GREAT goal, and something you should be proud of.  The main thing for me with running is that it's about the goals YOU SET FOR YOURSELF.  I don't generally time myself while running (this may be why I became a CHONK) because running for me has always been about just enjoying myself and having fun.

And there's some very fun 5Ks out there, especially for you city dwellers.  In the last 3-4 years, I've signed up for the Stan's Donuts 5K (I got free donuts!), the Bunny Rock 5K (I got bunny ears!), a Color Run (they throw colored paint at you and ruin your shirt, haha), and the girlfriend and I just signed up for the Italian Beef 5K (they give you an Italian Beef sandwich for finishing! FREE ITALIAN BEEF!!) and she may be coercing me into doing a 5K race to Wrigley Field when her parents come to town.  They have Ditka Dashes in the winter, where everyone dresses up like Mike Ditka (Chicago legend), and Santa Runs and alla that.  5Ks are great easy races that let you either run at a comfortable pace and enjoy the scenery, or you can sprint like a madman and time yourself.  But you get great swag from them (a medal and a compression shirt, usually) and you're usually supporting a charity as well.  The charity aspect makes doing them a lot more fun, especially if you can sign someone up with you, but the free shirt DEFINITELY helps, haha.  I definitely stopped BUYING fancy runner shirts after getting like 4-5 different ones from different races and all.  It's like I'm practically saving money!
Disney has races every year from 5K to marathons, and you can do them in costume if you want!
Races - Marathons
Then there's the nutjobs like me and Eric's Wife who sign up to run 26.2 miles.  Because it's THERE, man!  I can honestly say that I've never been more motivated than while running the Chicago marathon.  It feels like the entire city is out there cheering for you.  The first year I did the marathon, I was literally just doing it to finish.  Then I did it in 4 hours and 2 minutes.  Awww dangit, I can beat that! And that's how I signed up for my SECOND marathon.  It snuck up on me without me even noticing, right?  Marathons may not be for you, and that's fine.  But if you're curious about it, there's a bunch of online plans for them, and we have both done them.  I jumped from 6 miles twice a week into eventually running a 26 mile course, and it was AMAZING.  Tough as HECK, but amazing.  I did beat my goal that second year of running it, and my goal this year is to try to hit a sub-4:00 again.  That's a HELL of a goal, but I'm determined to DO (remember, do or do not; there is no try)!  You can also run marathons for charity, which is a really noble goal and you can pick whatever charity motivates you the most.  There's some great ones out there....

Hahahahaha go to a real running blog.  After all this talk, I'm going for a run, myself.  And feel free to ask us any questions you have about running!

*Try. Be kind to yourself. Walk if you have to. Find the value in things you do, even imperfectly. Don’t get an injury. Don’t get obsessed with the numbers. And most importantly: Don’t Try To Be John, We Already Have One Of Those.

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