I’ve been meaning to post this but took a long time to sieve through all the questions and grouping them so that I can answer them in one blogpost. Of course, that, coupled with my latent procrastination made this post long overdue. But anyway, here it is, questions about running, answered.
1. What equipment do you need?
SHOES: I experienced a lot of pain when I first ran due to runner’s toes which I could have avoided if I had taken the time to read about it and buy shoes that are half or one size larger than my usual street size. It is common knowledge that your feet swell as the day goes along; when you run they swell even more. If there is no room for the toes to accommodate this, bruising and bleeding under the nails will occur. Runner’s toes are painful. I went through a thick bandage and painkiller phase to deal with it til it healed. Not to mention how ugly they looked. I use Adidas Supernova Glide 2 W trainers (see below, in these exact colours).
SOCKS: The right sock is very important. 100% Cotton socks, like the thick white ones you wore when you were in primary school, is a bad choice. It seems counterintuitive – you figure that it would sop up all the sweat and keep your feet dry and warm, right? Nope. It sops up sweat but the moisture stays, making your feet cold and clammy. Perfect for blisters to form. And blisters are painful, though pretty tolerable as compared to runner’s toes.
These days I use polyester socks (anything made from synthetic material is good). I found that I tend to develop blisters at the back of my feet because of the rubbing motion; pre-emptive band-aids (compulsory if I am doing a 60-min continuous run) and calf-length socks help to stop this. I haven’t had a single blister since I switched to polyester socks. These socks are cheap! You can get them for RM0.99 from Giant.
PEDOMETER: The pedometer helps to keep track of distance when I am running outside, which I did a lot of when I first started. It is a nice-to-have. When you run outside you can either use time or distance as your goals. I started with running for 30mins each time, eventually I switched to running 3km each time which necessitated a pedometer. My Omron Walking Style II Pedometer is a freebie that I got during my time in Nestle. Some mobile phones and MP3 players, my old Sony Ericsson for instance, have built-in pedometers.
2. How much water to drink every day?
I drink about 2 to 3 litres of water daily. I can always tell when I have not been drinking enough, I would get lightheaded and feel like vomiting during a run. When this happens, I would stop and rehydrate. I am not sure if this is normal for runners, but when I experience this it is always because I have not been drinking enough water throughout the day. I don’t load up on water before a run; I simply take a couple of sips of 100 Plus if I don’t feel hydrated enough and adjust my running speed and distance accordingly.
I use my tea presser to measure how much I drink every day, which was a trick I developed when I was in Nestle. The tea presser holds about 700ml of liquid, so I drink 2 refills of that throughout the day. After runs, I take a few sips of 100 Plus and about 1liter of water (3 glasses or so). Where possible I drink only plain water or tea (no sugar, no milk). These are on top of other liquids like milk with my cereal, soups etc.
3. What’s in my gym bag?
I have a face towel that I change every day, hand sanitizer, wet and dry tissue, a couple of band-aids, safety pin (to reset my MP3 player if it gets wonky), paracetamol and painkiller (in a ziplock bag), spare socks, a book (right now it’s Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami) and a bottle of 100 Plus. I go through a bottle every 3-days or so, as post-run drink before I start my stretching exercises.
4. What’s a good routine for beginner runner?
I started with running outdoors for about 30 mins 3 times a week in the early morning at Taman Jaya jogging track. Very pleasant. Actually it was more of a combination of walking and jogging. I haven’t been exercising for 16 years so I started small and easy.
This was last April, and graduated to more regular runs by July. I had a 2-months break for Ramadhan and Syawal. At the end of October, I followed a proper running program that I downloaded from Complete Running Network and began charting my progress using a free online program at Fitday.com. The goal is to train for a marathon in 8-10 Weeks. This is an unreasonable goal. I realize that a more realistic goal would be to run 10Km within 60mins, not a 42.6km marathon within 5 hours. But this is how my mind works – the more impossible the goal is, the more determined I am to try to reach it (I am sane enough to know the difference between what’s achievable and what’s not).
This is the schedule that I use:
However, I did not start with a 15min run. I used a 7 3 2 20 pacing instead i.e. 7min continuous run followed by 3min walk, repeat twice for a total of 20mins. This was my routine for 2 solid weeks and I ran 5 times a week (the balance 2 days are rest days) at a speed of 6.5km/h. I developed runner’s toes at the end of the 2-week period so I changed my shoes and socks and decreased the speed to 5.5km/hr. Once I was comfortable with this, I followed the rest of the schedule accordingly.
5min warm-up – goal is to get my heart rate up to 120 bpm. I usually brisk walk with a 3.0 incline at 5.5km/h or use the recumbent bike at Level 5 resistance. Normally the target heart rate will be achieved within the first minute, the rest of the time is used to maintain it there. Stepping, jump rope or doing jumping-jacks are also good ways to warm up.
30min running. This is the minimum duration that I put in, heart rate would be between 140-160 bpm.
These days I run continuously but in the first few weeks I combined it with walking; or with biking. Speed and incline vary depending on how my body feels, I don’t attempt to push it very much. If my brain says stop, I stop.
When I have more time I try to run for 60mins and then use the skiing machine and the bike for another 30mins. I have only managed to do this 90-min workout twice in my entire life.
I find that music is essential. I program my playlist so that it finishes in 30mins with 2 spare songs for the cooldown walk (I got this down to a science). If I do a 60min run, I will segue 2 different playlists back to back. It helps to psych my mind. I try not to look at the treadmill counter to see my progress because it can be very demoralizing (what?! Only 10mins had passed?). So I count it by songs: 30 mins is equivalent to about 8 songs, so I tell myself – okay 6 more songs to go, 5 more songs to go, 4 more songs to go etc. I always set the treadmill to 30mins. When I feel like I can go the distance I increase the time in 2 mins increments so it goes from 30mins to 32, 34, 36 etc until I give up. I always try to run for 5km or do a combination of running and walking to get to 5km. With my current speed, I cover about 3.5km comfortably in 30mins; I usually increase the speed in the last 10mins to push myself to get to 5km. Else, I stop running at the 30min mark and walk the balance. I average about 45min continuous run these days. If I feel a bit under the weather like when I just recovered from a cold or came in from a long trip, I use the 7 3 2 20 routine all over again.
Thinking while running only works when I am outdoors coz my speed varies depending on what I am thiking about. At the treadmill I just focus on the music. Every now and then I look to my shoulders, or at my feet (looking down at the treadmill is a better description). I also have to constantly remind myself to take small steps. Sometimes I get over-excited and starts to run with big, large steps. I lose steam very fast that way. So whenever I notice that I am starting to take big steps, I would mentally chastise myself and force my feet to slow down and run in small steps, with them barely off the ground. It’s almost like speed walking (or a slow run, depending on how you look at it).
I don’t run everday. I have 2 rest days: Monday is a designated rest day and I will choose one more random day from the week, which usually depends on my social calendar.
One trick that I find motivates me to run is to immediately change into my running gear after I come home from work; or if I am already home, after I am done with Maghrib. I would wear the whole thing including the trainers, so inevitably I feel persuaded to leave the apartment and go to the gym. Doesn’t always work but it helps.
5-7min Cooldown. I use the treadmill for my cooldown, it’s automated so I just follow what it says. After I jump off the treadmill, I take a walk around the swimming pool to get used to walking on solid ground again. This is when I rehydrate.
30min Weight Training and Yoga Stretches. I do the dumbbell curls next, lateral curls and hammer curls; 15 curls, 3 sets each with about 30sec breaks in between. I don’t bench-press, I don’t know how to do that; and sometimes I only do 1 or 2 sets of the curls. It pretty much depends on my mood.
I used to do the conventional post-workout stretches but found them too difficult to follow. The yoga version is a lot gentler and forgiving for a novice like me. I suggest you find what works for you. The stretching bit is very important. My body stops aching once I started to be very disciplined about it so I don’t skip this part anymore.
Usually I don’t eat any dinner before the run, instead I eat supper about an hour after that; and sleep about 3-4 hours after my last meal. Don’t take this as advice. I sleep very late, typically around 3am, which is something that I am trying to fix. The body needs protein to repair muscle damage (and repairs take place when you sleep) so at the very least I would eat cereal with milk or make myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Of course I also find myself having a large meal (tandoori chicken with naan, rice with fried chicken, pancakes with the works etc) more often than not, so I need to take a serious second look at my meal strategy.
5. How much weight have I lost so far?
The most weight loss actually happened between April-July, when I first started running. I lost about 5kg. It seems a little but on a small frame like mine, it was a lot.
Once I follow a running programme, I gained all the 5kg back (thanks to carb and sweets craving that I gave in to without much resistance). I have only have been successful at permanently shedding 1kg so far, my weight seems to have plateaued but it is in a good range so I am not freaking out about it. Of course losing the balance 4kg will make me very happy but I take what I can get. Physically I do not look like I have gained any weight; in fact I retain the same dress size that I achieved during the initial weight loss period.
To control my diet, I made up a lot of rules. For someone with a sweet tooth, it is very hard for me to follow these rules and I break them regularly. Some of these rules are:
- I can’t buy rubbish food for myself; rubbish food is defined as coffee, potato chips, and all forms of dessert ESPECIALLY cupcakes and ice cream. I can only have them if someone else is buying.
- If I want something to munch while watching TV, I munch on dry cereal. It is not quite as satisfying as Lay’s crisp or fried chicken wings but it does the job. Of course I cheat very often.
- When I crave something sweet, I drink hot chocolate. Or sometimes, I will lick a spoonful of Nutella. I use Swiss Miss No Sugar Added Instant Chocolate mix.
- If I do something special, I get a reward. For instance, for every kg that I lose, I get a pair of shoes. If I stay up all night to work, I get a bottle of Starbucks Frappucino (which you can buy from any Cold Storage chains at RM8.99 a bottle). If I manage to run in excess of 20km a week, I get an ice cream bar. Rewards rewards rewards. I am basically a 13-year old child that responds very well to rewards and bribery.
A quick photo recap (click to enlarge):
If you look at the photos you’ll see that I have not lost that much weight (which was what I have been trying to convince people). It has stayed in the same range since April, yo-yoing here and there within the 5kg range. I weigh less now than I did in March, though the photos looked like I was a lot skinnier then. I guess I just had a really really good photographer for the event.
I have since ran in two 5Km fun runs and a 10Km. But I don’t count those as part of my training coz I did them before I officially followed a schedule. With these ad-hoc runs I think I tend to run faster than I normally would, purely out of sheer terror that I would become among the last runners and had to be picked up by a van. Vanity is a great motivator. Time trials on the treadmills yield consistent results, and I like that I pass the Talk Test in each trial. My focus now is to stick to running more consistently (I am still ashamed about the 2-week relapse), and eventually to increase the distance that I can cover in 30mins.
I won’t say I love running or that it is a hobby. It started out for medical reasons and I am still doing it mostly because of that. But I must admit there’s a lot of positives that compel me to continue down this road such as:
- Though the weight loss is pathetic I look better today than I did a year ago. Look younger too.
- I fit into my clothes better (and dropped a couple of sizes).
- I sleep better (I still average less than 5 hours a night but I haven’t had any insomnia episodes since October, which has got to be a record).
- I can sing and play the guitar longer than I used to.
If you would like to start, I’d recommend the websites that I referenced in this post. The speed, distance, endurance and programme style pretty much differ from one person to another. The best thing I can tell you is to start small. The lack of physical results can be disappointing and relapses in eating and running will happen more often than not. That’s why I keep this blog, to remind me again and again that change does happen even if it doesn’t manifest quite as dramatically as I’d like it to be.
Hope this helps. Good luck!
- Find the Perfect Socks for Your Running Shoes (onlineshoes.com)
- How to Buy the Right Running Shoes (onlineshoes.com)
- My Perfect Set of Runner’s Toes (killingtimewithijahamran.wordpress.com)