Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Getting started tips

I belong to a fitness message board and I got a PM from one of the members asking for advice on how to train for her first half marathon. I put together a really long reply to her and thought I would paste it here as well. Just so you know, at the message board we are known as The Firm YaYa's (The Firm after The Firm workout series, but most of us are into other forms of exercise as well and YaYa after the book "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood") Here's the reply:


Thanks for the congrats! First off ... you can TOTALLY do this. Two and half years ago I was in a pretty bad car accident where I was in the hospital for one month, in a wheel chair for 3 months and crutches another 2-3 after that. I broke my hip, pelvic bone (there is actually a large screw in there now), shoulder, ribs and had my spleen removed. For a time I never thought I would be able to sit up in bed unassisted much less walk much less RUN! At the time I started training for my marathon, I was at least 50 pounds over weight (75 over my pre-kids weight). I once ran an entire mile (in 5th grade) and never made THAT mistake again! After that in gym when we had to do it, I would walk half of it. So basically if anyone couldn't run ... I was really that person. I really thought that I would never ever be a runner. So if I can do it ... you can definitely do it!

Here's a copy/paste from a post I put up a while back on Yayas:

Basically as a group, we worked up to running a base 3 miles. Then we started a 7 week plan that is like this:

Week 1 - 3.5, 3.5, 5
Week 2 - 4, 4, 8
Week 3 - 5, 5, 10
Week 4 - 6, 6, 12
Week 5 - 4, 4, 10
Week 6 -3, 3, 8
Week 7 - 4, 3, 2, rest two days then ... 13.1

My running partner and I have strayed a little bit based on what our bodies are up to. Some days I wish I had another month, but at the same time, I don't have any room for procrastination at this point. I know I'll be running this marathon in a little over a month, so I HAVE to get my runs in each day.

Oh, and as far as building up the base 3 miles. For me, I started at an indoor track. It was 10 laps = 1 mile. The first week I would run 5 laps (so .5 miles) and then alternate running walking as it felt good (good being a relative term!) Those first few days pretty much killed me. I really could not fathom running even a mile. Each week I added 2-3 laps on to that base and continued alternating walking and running. After about 3 weeks I was doing a total of 2.5-3 miles, just with lots of walking. Each week I got a little closer to running it all. I remember at first I just couldn't even breath, and now that isn't really a factor at all. It does take the first 1.5 -2 miles to find the right rhythm.

I've been very careful and listened to my body because I do NOT want to injure myself. I bought good shoes from a running store (they watch you run and pick out shoes that work for you.) It was the first time in my life I bought shoes based on how they feel and not how they look! I still have a long way to go, but for those of you just started out or toying with the idea ... you can SO do this! I've been on this board since the beginning and I was always (still am!) in such awe of runners. I always secretly wanted to be able to do it. Never REALLY thought I could. Feels good to prove myself wrong!
I battled a shin injury and went out of town, so my training did not go as planned. I think it looked more like this:

We normally did the runs on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday which allowed for 2 full rest days before a long run.
Week 1 - 3.5, 3.5, 5
Week 2 - 4, 4, 6
Week 3 - 4, 4 (had shin pain and couldn't do the long run)
Week 4 - 4 (was on vacation and did no running!)
Week 5 - 4.5, 4, 10
Week 6 - 3, 3.5 (had to stop due to severe shin pain and took 6 days off)
Week 7 - 4 , rest two days then ... 13.1

What I would do differently is definitely give more time for training which would allow to add up the miles a little slower. This would also allow for taking off time if there is fear of an injury. You can see that I did not have very many long runs, and I went up in mileage quickly there. I think that is what tweaked my shin. It was always the week after the biggest long runs that I had the most shin pain. My shin is now just starting to feel better. I went for my first run since the half (about 10 days) and only ran for 15 minutes and walked the rest because it's still not right. When I train for my next half, I will build up my long runs more slowly that even that original plan called for. Something like this:

Week 1 - 3, 3, 5
Week 2 - 3, 3.5, 6
Week 3 - 3.5, 4, 7
Week 4 - 4, 4.5, 8
Week 5 - 4.5, 5, 9
Week 6 - 5, 5.5, 10
Week 7 - 5.5, 6, 11
Week 8 - 6, 6, 12
Week 9 - 6, 6, 12
Week 10 - 5, 5, 10
Week 11 - 4, 4, 8
Week 12 - 4, 3, 2 (rest at least two full days), 13.1

General rule of thumb is have your weekday mileage add up to your long run mileage. Some people prefer to run 4-5 days a week. Three days a week worked well for us to have a full recovery day in between each run and two recovery days before a long run.

Once you start running 5 miles or more, you'll want to make sure you have water and some form of energy. I bought an amphipod from my running store which is basically a fanny pack that you can attached small water bottles to. Some people prefer to drive their route ahead of time and plant water bottles along the way. When I do a 5 mile run, about 45 minutes to 1 hour ahead of time I'll eat 1 piece of wheat toast w/ PB and half a banana. Find a good combo of carbs and protein that works for you, but do not eat a lot. You don't want to be nauseous because of all of the food in your stomach. Any longer than that I start using energy GUs or bloks (running stores have a huge variety of these gels, energy fruit snacks, jelly beans, etc. that are specially formulated with the proper amount of carbs and protein needed to keep you going strong.) You'll want to test them out and find what works for you, some of them are pretty gaggy. I was told to take one serving 15 minutes before the run and then take a serving every 45 minutes. They even have ones with caffeine in them which give an extra boost towards the really long runs.

If you run in the evening, allow at least 2 hours after a meal. I made the mistake of eating a stir fry meal 1 hour before a run, thinking that would be plenty of time ... oy I was so nauseous it was miserable.

So there's a whole lot of info ... I hope it helps! Oh, if you are working on building up your base mileage, try a rotation like Couch to 5K. You can check out my blog where I've journaled as I went along (it's a lot of reading though!): here I suggest keeping a blog or journal at Yayas so you can track you progression. It's very helpful.

Okay, enough from me. Let me know if you have any other questions.



  1. Carrie,
    I think it is great what you have done. I am not a runner, but I walk everyday. We (me and the kids,cause I can't do anythink without them wanting to come) either go to the school to play games or walk around our circle till I hit two miles.

  2. Carrie! It's me, Buffy!

    Thanks for posting your reply to me here. I am glad to see it because I know it will help others.

    You GO girl!


  3. Hi Buffy! Thanks for visiting and supporting me, you're awesome!

    Stacy, that's great!