On Being A “Larger” Runner & Preventing Injuries

I’m not a small person and I don’t carry the (stereo)typical “runner” physique.  I’m still working towards my weight loss goals and my body isn’t light and lanky.  I have heavy, solid legs and curves.  My mommy tummy still shakes and jiggles when I run and I pound the pavement hard.

nearing the finish of a 5K race

Running at this weight might not be ideal, but it still feels pretty damned good!  I’m pushing 185-188lbs these days and on a good day can push a 10:10 pace for a 5K.  My long runs are much slower, but I can go for miles and miles without needing to rest.  Really though, none of that matters–I am a slow runner, I am a larger runner, I am a mother runner, I am a runner.

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It doesn’t matter which adjective I use to describe it, it all boils down to the fact that I am a runner.  I am strong and powerful and I can accomplish more than my mind knows.

BUT, that doesn’t mean that running larger doesn’t come with its challenges.  Having a heavier build often means that you’re exerting more wear and tear on your body. Pounding the pavement hard can take its toll on the body if you do not take the proper precautions.  Many of us larger runners take on running as a means to lose weight.  Eager to go hard and hit big goals, many new runners are faced with the dread that is a running injury.

Believe me, I’ve faced my share of running related injuries and I know what my body can and can’t handle.  Surprisingly, most of said injuries occurred before I even became a runner.  In college when I participated on the woman’s rowing team I faced multiple overuse injuries to my knees.  I had IT band issues and patellar tendonitis.  There really wasn’t a time where pain wasn’t present.  I resigned to the fact that I had bad knees and thus couldn’t be a runner.

Fast-forward to today.  I haven’t faced any real injuries (aside from the time I didn’t change shoes soon enough) since my running ventures began in 2013.  In the first weeks of running I did make the mistake of using my 2-year-old running shoes and soon enough I began to feel pain in my shin.  This is when I learned the importance of a good shoe and how easing into training is the best course of action.  So, I’ve decided to use my own experiences and compile them with additional tips for preventing injury as a larger runner.

PREVENTING INJURY AS A LARGER RUNNER (aka Clydesdale/Athena runners)

*Please Note:  I am not a running expert nor a physician.  These tips are based on my own experiences and research.

  1. Ease into your training.  If it hurts when you do it, then don’t do it!  I know this seems counterintuitive because running can “hurt” in a good way without causing injury, but what I’m saying is that you need to ease your body into running so that you don’t get injured.  If you try to go too fast or too hard too soon, your body will pay the price.  I strongly advise that you take a couple of weeks to build and develop strength in your legs.  I usedP90X as my foundation builder and I think it’s what helped me feel like I could actually be a runner.Having a proper base is a great way to prevent overuse injuries.  This can also be achieved by using one of the beginner runner programs like Couch to 5K.  Programs like this ease your body into running and it’s important to follow the program as advised, it is not the time to be an overachiever (which can actually set you back instead of push you further).
  2. Buy proper footwear.  Because we are built heavier, it’s very important to make sure we make the effort to get a proper shoe and to make sure we change our shoes when they lose their support. A good rule of thumb for bigger runners is to find a shoe with a strong midsole support system.  For me this just so happens to be Asics Gel Kayanos.  Every shoe’s life expectancy varies depending on the runner’s stride, the shoe type, and the conditions the shoes are run in (i.e. concrete running vs. trail running).  For myself I usually find the 300 mile range to be my sweet spot.  It’s all about listening to your body though!  If you start to feel aches and pains that weren’t there a few weeks ago it might be time for a new pair.
  3. Choose your running surfaces wisely.  Not all running surfaces are created equal!  Concrete is by far the worse surface to run on, it doesn’t offer any form of shock absorption so your body is faced with the brunt of it.  When possible it’s best to opt for softer surfaces–this is why you often see runners on the road when there is a perfectly good sidewalk next to them.  I’ve grown to love trail running for this particular reason. My stride is cushioned by the soft ground and the scenery and terrain change makes for a fun run.
  4. Listen to your body.  With any fitness routine it’s always important to listen to your body.  If you feel achy and it’s just sore muscles you won’t do too much damage by going out for a quick jog.  If you feel pinpoint pain that worsens upon running then you might want to cut back and let your body heal.  If you’re not sure what your body needs then you might want to consider seeing a doctor.  Persistent pain is a big red flag and ignoring it can lead to permanent injury that can derail your running completely.
  5. Go your own pace.  This goes hand in hand with easing into your training.  Group runs are fun, but running with others means that you might try to push yourself too hard.
  6. Fuel your body. With any new routine (even if weight loss is the goal) it’s important to fuel your body.   This is not the time to skimp on your diet.  Your body needs to be properly fueled and fed in order to prevent injury.  Malnourishment can lead to prolonged recovery and an increased risk of injury and illness.
  7. Dress the part.  Clothing attire might not be something that seems important, but for myself I think it helps!  Having the proper clothes can save you from jostling around with each stride and can help prevent chafing.
  8. Allow for rest and recovery.  If you’re just starting out running there is no reason to be running everyday.  Your body will need time to recover and repair those hard-working muscles.  Ignoring rest days can lead to fatigue and poor form which can cause long-term injuries.  As always it’s important to be mindful and listen to your body.

I know that a lot of these tips may seem like common sense, but as a once newbie runner I know that it’s not always so easy.  I didn’t know that running shoes weren’t one size fits all.  I didn’t know that running surfaces mattered and I didn’t know that a gradual build to running was best.  It’s still a learning experience for me, but I am eager to keep running and work on that speed.

Are you a larger runner?  What tips do you have to offer?  What have been your biggest obstacles?

 

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Product Review: FlipBelt

I finally had the chance to test out my new flip belt! AND I LOVE IT!  I really didn’t know how I would feel about it because I figured it would bunch up and look weird, but once I popped my phone in and flipped it over I was good to go.

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I ran for 5 miles and with my iPhone5s tucked away it stayed in place just fine.  It didn’t ride up or bounce around as one would expect, but I did need to wear it over my pants so that my mommy pouch wouldn’t be squished.

I think this belt would be great for a variety of people, but can see larger individuals or people with excess loose skin (like myself) struggling to feel comfortable.  I was able to solve this problem by wearing the belt over my running tights.  My tights help to hold everything in so my gut wasn’t flopping around over the belt as I ran.

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Overall, it’s a great product and I would recommend it to my friends (and you!).  The only con I can see is for larger individuals.  I know that this is something I would have avoided like the plague back when I first started my journey and can understand that it’s not something that is meant for every body.

I should also note that I ordered a size large for my size 10/12 hips so it’s a fairly standard fit.

If you’re interested in buying one of these at a super discounted price let me know ASAP (leave your email) so I can share my special discount code (I have 15 codes available for 33% off).

Also if I run out of super saver codes you can use code: Sweat10 for 10% off your entire FlipBelt purchase!

Be sure to visit http://bit.ly/flipbeltsweatpink to checkout their full collection of belts!
If you want to get your hands on one for cheap please fill out the form so I can send you the 33% off code!

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Race Recap: Seneca7-77.7 Mile Relay Race 4/27/14

We did it!  Our team finished off a long day of racing without dying.  This was my first long distance relay race and I’m happy to say that it went over pretty well.

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The days leading up to the race I was getting a bit nervous.  My run times were slacking due to my missed week and bronchitis recovery and I was seriously worried that I would not make it through at least one of my runs (after all, I had committed to this race while still hacking up a lung).

Post-marathon (in January), I haven’t booked nearly as many miles.  This came in part due to the craptastic weather combined with back to back sicknesses that took  me out of commission for weeks at a time.  In the 3 months post-marathon, I missed a cumulative of 3 weeks of running and hadn’t put in a run over 4.5 miles since.

This race was my get back to it race.  With 3 legs featuring steady and rolling hills I was ready for a wake up call.

My First leg wasn’t nearly as bad as I had expected and the flat portions of the run provided me enough recovery to climb the slight hills.  The nice drop off at the end also allowed for a strong finish and left me feeling determined for my next legs.

Leg#5:  3.88 miles,  42:47, 11:01 pace (was actually 10:55-10:57, but didn’t stop my clock on time)

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My next leg wasn’t as thrilling.  The thought of rolling hills seemed fairly appealing, but the climbs were back in my face just as quickly as my drops and my HR never dropped below 176 bpm.  For me that is way higher than I am comfortable holding for long distances.  I usually prefer to stay in the 165 bpm range to avoid burnout.  Despite my struggle, I was able to end strong with relief that my longest run was over with.

Leg#12: 5.19 miles, 58:55, 11:21 pace

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 Then came my last leg.  The leg that I thought would be my little slice of heaven….yeah, it wasn’t.  This piece was by far the hardest.  I was already starting to feel tight from my prior runs and being crammed in a car all day and a steady climb was the last thing I wanted to see.

This leg actually didn’t bother me in the first mile.  Mile one was flat and easy.  It wasn’t until mile two that my legs started burning.  I kept seeing the peak of a hill and figured it would level out or go downhill.  I was wrong.  It just kept climbing and the last half mile was by far the worst!  I so badly contemplated stopping and walking.

Leg #19: 2.61 miles, 30:00, 11:29 pace

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My legs hurt, my heart rate was through the roof and it felt like every stride was propelling me nowhere.  People kept passing me with their words of encouragement and all I wanted to say was “fuck you” (yeah, I’m that kind of runner who gets pissed by the sympathetic compliments).  I can’t help it, I get in the zone and don’t necessarily want that pat on the back.  For me when I’m already struggling it can feel like a condescending slap in the face.  I’m sure I’m not alone in this, but it does make me feel like an asshole.

Despite my irate attitude, I finished off as strong as I could and ended my final leg with heart pounding satisfaction.

Our last two runners ran their final legs and our team ended up finishing at 7:42pm, which put us at a 9:47 pace for the day.  We crossed the finish together and received our corresponding finishers medals along with a hot bowl of chili and cornbread.

I really enjoyed this adventure and would love to be part of a race like this again.  It was definitely a new experience and it taught me that training on hills needs to happen more often.  I can see how it will work to my benefit even though I despise them.

Have you ever competed in a long distance relay?  What races are you training for?

 

Race Recap: Tough Turtle 5K Obstacle Race 4/19/14

Pre-race, I made sure to doll myself up because I have this problem with race photos.

I seriously almost always look like I am taking a crap or pushing out a giant baby elephant.

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Pre-race selfies

It’s not a joke, I am dead serious! You don’t believe me? Of all the race photos to be found, this by far must be the worse, but it’s also fairly representative of what I look like when I race.

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Courtesy of the Ithaca Journal

My horrible grimace is the least of the most appalling things in this photo. It’s overly unflattering and I’m okay with that.  You should try looking glamorous and svelte while sliding down a steep hill coated with animal lube (YUP….ANIMAL LUBE).

Anyhow, enough about photos, the race was a blast!  It was my first obstacle race and despite my still recovering from the week-long bout of whatever the hell I was fighting, it went pretty well. Mary and I ended up pairing off within the first 20 seconds of the start.  Someone didn’t quite get the meaning of “team run”, so I sprinted ahead to catch up with her so she wouldn’t have to brave it alone.  I may or may not have held her back some, but she was kind enough to slow her pace to do it together.

We blasted through the first bunch of obstacles until we hit the tractor tire flip.  That thing was freaking heavy!  At this point we were both happy to have the support of a team member.  It really took a lot more out of us than expected.

The rest of the course proved to be a little easier, but a surprising struggle was the progressive balance beams.  Trying to walk on narrow balance beams while getting hosed with water was not an easy task!

Up next we climbed the hill to the slip and slide of doom (I think it was called the Compost Cascade).  This is where I got pretty banged up and mud in places I may never be able to get to.  At this point my cold was starting to get to me a bit, but I kept on pushing.  We finished off the race with just a few more obstacles including carrying a log, dodging zombies,  climbing a net wall, climbing a hay bale, and lastly throwing a tire onto a pole.

We finished in style, mud on our face and in a reasonable time of 38:30.

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We then waited for Craig and Dani to catch up to us (they weren’t too far behind us).   We watched them finish their last obstacles and then joined them to run the last stretch so we could at the least finish together as a team.1492223_854738451206202_481913266110309039_o(1)It was such a fun experience and I’m eager to do it again!  I have a voucher for a Spartan race so that will probably be my next challenge.

10246783_10100462165927709_5018156578620390483_n    The race was fairly easy, the tough part was getting our mud soaked clothes cleaned.  It seriously took me 3 tub rinses to get the majority of the mud and compost out.

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All in all, I’d do it again!  I def enjoy these races and my only worry would be getting injured, but if you’re smart and not too competitive it’s not too bad.

Because I’m Just A Little Crazy: Seneca7

Call me a mad woman, because I just got roped into something crazy! My friend Cassy was on the hunt to replace a runner for the Seneca7 race she’s participating in on the 27th. What’s the Seneca7 you ask?  Well, it’s a 77.7 mile race around Senenca Lake, the running is split between 7 runners responsible for 3 legs each.

I’m runner #5 responsible for these 3 crazy legs!  I’m a wee bit nervous for this endeavor, but it’s going to be fun!

The first leg is 3.8 miles with a steady climb.  This is where the nerves come into play. I am not the best with hills.  To be accurate, my hitting a hill during a run is much like watching a child try to go uphill on a slip and slide.  It just doesn’t end well.

Screen shot 2014-04-17 at 3.53.03 PMLeg 2 seems a bit more promising.  Seeing the term “rolling” in the description  gives me a little bit of hope.  The scary part is the 5.2 mile distance that it’s paired with.  During my marathon training, 5.2 miles seemed like a small number, a short run if you will.  As of recently though, pretty much since I crossed the finish of my first  marathon, I haven’t run anything over 4.5 miles.  Part of this was due to the bitter cold and part of it was due to my constant state of unwell.

Screen shot 2014-04-17 at 3.53.24 PMAnd lastly, my final leg, a short 2.6 miles sounds like a slice of heaven.  I’ll hold on tighter to the descriptor of “gentle” over “uphill”  as my little piece of sunshine.

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Despite my nerves and dislike for hills, I am excited. This will be my first big running race post-marathon.  It’s definitely something that will gear me up for the bigger races that I have planned for this year and next.

A Fit Family = A Happy Family

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It might sound cheesy and cliché, but for us it’s the truth.  When I was out of shape and severely over weight, I was not happy. I was a miserable mess of a person and it spilled out into our family life.  Looking back I see that I judged more, I snapped more, and I was flat-out negative about everything.

I picked apart people’s weaknesses because I didn’t want to face my own and it wasn’t healthy.  Nothing in my life was healthy at that point.  Nothing in our family life was healthy either (aside from our beautiful healthy and happy son).  Both of us would come home and melt into the couch with our bags of take out (or fast food) and sink into a Netflix coma.  We didn’t connect with one another very much, we cohabited just fine and loved each other, but we were like two passing ships fighting our own battles.  We’d drown our boredom by stuffing our faces and watching our shows until it was time for bed.

Intimacy took it’s hit too, neither of us were particularly fond of our new bodies.  I had trouble accepting my post-baby body and any loving compliment doled out by my husband was easily brushed off.  How on earth could this man think I’m beautiful when I look and feel the way I do?  My insecurities got the best of me and I could not fathom that he was being honest.  In short, there were a few months where things were rough.  I’m not one for hiding the truth and in all honesty I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a healthy relationship that didn’t face trying times.

For us, this period of being unhealthy left us both with a lot of self-reflecting.  It turns out a lot of our unhappiness was because we weren’t taking care of ourselves.  Like many new parents, we put our son’s needs ahead of our own and our focus was constantly on him.  We lost sight of ourselves and each other and it became apparent that the major problem in the equation was our inability to tend to our own needs.

Outwardly, these problems weren’t obvious and I didn’t even awaken to the problem until my husband expressed his concern about the life we were leading.  He could feel the lifestyle of laziness taking hold and didn’t like where it was going.  I was still in denial and didn’t want to accept the fact that I had lost touch with a healthy way of life.  After all, I was only exhausted all of the time because I was busy caring for our baby into the wee hours.  It clearly had nothing to do with my poor diet choices and lack of physical activity.

Fast forward to today, I’m feeling so much more confident and I can now better accept a compliment.  My husband and I do our best to make time each day to focus on ourselves and each other.  We have gym dates where we push each other to be better and work harder.  We get out more as a family and do our best to be active together by hiking, jogging, or running around the playground with our son.  Our overall moods are better, we have more energy and we’ve found a common ground once again.  We share in each others’ successes and support each others’ goals.  Hell, I even convinced my husband to buy running shoes and compete in our first race together!  Now, that’s a big deal!

Running With Your Heart

Let me tell you a little (well not so little) secret about how I pace myself during my longer runs.

I listen to my heart.

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Marathon training taught me a valuable lesson on how listening to your body plays an important role on your overall health and performance.

As a competitive athlete, I was always trained to go at a “balls to the walls”, all out, heart pounding intensity.  For me this doesn’t mesh well with long distance running.  I learned this on my first 15 mile run.

I was running much slower than my normal pace due to the crazy October heat (yeah it was 86 and humid in October last fall) and still felt like I was dying.  For the life of me I couldn’t figure out what was going on.  That wasn’t until I looked down at my HR monitor and it read 195!  I was at my max HR and moving so slow (15 min mile + slow), it didn’t make sense.  I was only 6 miles in and I was ready to cry out of frustration.  I ended up switching to run/walk intervals for the remainder of the run.  I wasn’t happy about it, but I wanted and needed to get my HR back down under 170 BPM to save myself from overheating. 
It was the first time that I really listened to my heart and learned the importance of doing so.  Had I kept pushing myself to reach a certain pace, I could have found myself collapsing due to heat stroke.  I know HR training isn’t for everyone, but for me it really does help. It tells me when I need to slow down (something that can be a struggle for me) and lets me know when I have more energy to speed up.

I know, it’s not a perfect science.  Our bodies can act differently under varied circumstances and small things (lack of sleep, caffeine, weather) can account for an increased HR during training.  Regardless, for me I feel like it’s a useful tool and I think I will work on putting more focus into it over the next couple of months.

I found this useful chart (based on my Max HR and resting HR) and do find that it correlates  with how I perform on my longer runs.  If you’re interested in learning what ranges work for you hop on over to Running For Fitness to create your own guide.

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I’m really excited to see how my running will change once I reincorporate HR training into my routine.  I am eager to see what my sprints look like and look forward to reaching new running goals as the weather warms up.

How do you train?  Do you listen to your body (or heart) and let it guide you?  Do you push yourself to meet a certain pace?  Do you shoot for distance or time?

Interested in learning more about heart rate training?  Visit Competitor for, “Running 101:  Training With A Heart Rate Monitor”, or “Get In The Zone: The Pros Of Heart-Rate Training For Runners”

Get In The Zone: The Pros Of Heart-Rate Training For Runners
Read more at http://running.competitor.com/2014/02/training/get-in-the-zone_66832#P5xFMLz0pCOcGrZf.9
Get In The Zone: The Pros Of Heart-Rate Training For Runners
Read more at http://running.competitor.com/2014/02/training/get-in-the-zone_66832#P5xFMLz0pCOcGrZf.99