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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2014 A Year In Review

This past year has been a whirlwind!  Let’s take a moment to look back to my Fit Goals of 2014 and see what I’ve accomplished!

2014 Fit Goals

  1. Run the entire Walt Disney World Marathon on January 12, 2014
  2. Sign-up for and complete either the Wineglass or Empire State Marathon.
  3. Sign-up and complete a Tough Mudder or similar obstacle race.
  4. Sign-up and PR in at least one Half-Marathon.
  5. Complete at least one unassisted pull-up.
  6. Run faster/more frequently (aim to triple mileage).
  7. Complete 1 round of p90x3.
  8. Sign-up for and complete a few 5k races.
  9. Eat cleaner!  I struggle with this one and often fall off into old habits.
  10. Start biking during the warm months.
  11. Sign-up for the 100 mile Ride for Life
  12. Lose the weight/lose inches–ideal weight=150lbs, size 6/8
  13. Sleep more!
  14. Blog more about fitness! (not really a fit goal, but related–I’d like to make sure to keep you updated on my progress and struggles)

I didn’t get through them all, but I am very proud of the goals that I did accomplish!!

Completing my first marathon is by far my biggest accomplishment of the year!  It wasn’t easy and I didn’t do as well as I had hoped, but I did it and was brave enough to sign up for this year’s marathon (which unfortunately I had to back out of in December).  It was a great year of increased mileage, strength, and fun races to boot!

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WDW Marathon 1/12/14

It wasn’t a Tough Mudder, but I did manage to run in 2 obstacle 5ks! Both were a blast and I’m definitely eager to try my hand at something a bit more challenging in 2015.

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Tough Turtle-Ithaca,NY
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5K Foam Fest-Batavia, NY

I also did fairly well at picking up my pace and increasing my mileage throughout the year (thanks to my months of ill-fated marathon training).  Longer runs became easier and shorter runs were faster.  I was also happy to have completed more 5ks than the prior year, but missed out on many races due to our hectic wedding schedule.

My favorite race of the year might have to be the Trick or Trot 5k because it was the first race that my little nugget ran.  I’ve been counting down the days until this little dude could run with me and it was ridiculously cute to see him wearing his first race bib.
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All in all, it’s been a great year! I didn’t complete as many goals as planned, but I didn’t gain back any of the weight I lost in 2013 so I feel proud and accomplished.  I do have big goals for 2015 and hope to keep moving forward with this healthy life and am grateful for all I’ve gained in 2014.

What did your 2014 look like?  Do you have big goals for 2015?

Race Recap: 5K Chili Challenge, Ithaca NY 11/2/14

It was another bitter and brutally cold day for this year’s 5K Chili Challenge (last year’s weather was just as bad).  It took a lot of effort for me to make it out of bed and brave the elements, but I sucked it up and made it happen.
463633_846711335362788_1076732083611111049_oI had been fighting an upper respiratory infection during the week and my lungs had been feeling tight so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had only been able to put in 4 miles that week and missed out on my 17 mile run so I figured this would be something that would at the least help me maintain some level of fitness.

Another motivator to get me out was that my two biggest fans came along to support me!  Craig and Connor braved the cold with me until the race started , but they later took refuge in the car while I ran.

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It was cold!  The wind was tough, but I dressed for the part.  I really loved the course for this 5K because it was a change of pace from mundane road races.  Trail running has become a new love of mine!  I often prefer it over other options and love that it provides a different level of challenge.

 

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In the first half of the race (the uphill portion) I was sure to take it easy.  This is where knowing the course really helped!  I was glad to reach the turn around point because I knew I could pick up the pace and improve my time during the slight downhill.  I even managed to pass a few groups of people!  This is something that never happens for me!

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I am a comfortable middle of the pack runner and usually end up on my own during the race, but it was nice to knowingly pass people and keep them at my tail.  I paced my fast mile in mile two and kept a strong and steady pace for mile three.

Like a perfect midpack runner, I finished off in 32:59 and placed 112/224 beating last year’s time by a hair.

 

 

Race Recap: Trick or Trot 5K-Cortland, NY 10/26/14

This past Sunday I had the painful joy of partaking in Cortland’s Trick or Trot 5K.  I say painful because my body was not too happy with me that day and it had every right to protest.

Why was I in so much pain?!

Oh, ya know, because I switched my training run around just so I could participate in said 5K.  I crammed in 15 glorious miles the day prior (16 if you count the extra mile I had walked to get home) and my body was feeling it.

Regardless of my lactic-acid drenched thighs, I was able to do the best with what I had and fared better than expected.

Even more exciting than my ability to move the day after such a long run was the fact that my little guy, Connor was able to participate in his first “race”!

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This event is definitely a must-attend for any parent!  Not only did they provide daycare during the race, but the little tykes were able to participate in their very own 100 yard dash.

Connor is still a tad young to understand the concept of when to run (though he does it on command any other day) so when the horn went off he just stood there.  I leaped in and trotted by his side until he got the idea.  He was VERY eager to catch that little shark ahead of him and finished his loop with a little help from mommy.

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Then it was mommy’s turn.  I didn’t quite know what to expect or how hard I would be able to push myself, but I managed to bring some life in my tired limbs.  I was tailed the entire race by a woman in a bright neon green shirt and I could tell that she was pacing me and trying to keep up so seeing her in my peripheral was just enough to keep me going when every inch of my legs burned.

A pair of flamingoes and superheroes just ahead were also there to keep my motivated.  I so badly wanted to pass them.  I did finally manage to pass them, but superhero batman had to pass me in the final seconds of the race and I finally felt like that infamous bird flipping runner.  All in all I was rather pleased considering I had physically exhausted myself the day before and still managed to place respectably 54/142 overall and 9/22 in my division.

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It wasn’t my best rest, but it was fun and I am eager to give it another go next year.  I’m even thinking that if I work on my training it could be a potential placement race in the future (unless it gets bigger and draws Ithaca crows–why are they so damned fast?!).

Have you participated in any Halloween themed races this month?

Marathon Training: Weeks 4-7 In Review

So, here I am feeling like a slacker!  These past few weeks have been nuts and I missed a big long run and a bunch of shorter runs.  I am a bit bummed, but am hopeful that it hasn’t hurt my training.

Screen shot 2014-10-01 at 1.03.20 PMOn the day of my 14 miler I was holed up in bed with a pounding headache.  I just couldn’t pull it together enough to go out and run for a couple of hours and by the time I felt better it was dark out and conditions weren’t prime for running solo.

Week 6 proved to be a challenge due to a mix of scheduling conflicts and an unwelcome bout of vertigo.  I only ran twice that week and when I went out for my 10 miler I could feel the difference in my performance over my prior 10 mile run.  I didn’t push myself as much as I could have and I was still breaking in new shoes so I am hopeful that it played a role in my slightly slower pace.

I am a little nervous for my upcoming week and haven’t quite figured out how my body is going to feel jumping from 13 miles to 16.  I’m just going to have to play it by ear and see how it all pans out.

Marathon Training Review: Weeks 1-3

A few weeks ago I decided to switch over from my 3x/week running plan to a more intense 5 day running plan, Hal Higdon’s Intermediate 2. The first week went fantastic!  I only missed one short run and was able to stay on track for my other longer runs.

I was also killing those runs!  My 10 miler was a new PR and my shorter runs were getting more speedy.

Hal Higdon Intermidiate 2 Training Schedule

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Sadly, week 2 is when I began to slack.  It was mainly because I was completely and utterly wiped out.  We shot a double wedding that weekend and after two 12 hour days of shooting the last thing I wanted to do on my first day off was go out and run 11 miles.  Let’s not forget to mention that I could also feel myself getting sick.  I know my body and know that I made a wise choice in staying in that day.

My cold was very mild and passed quickly and I was able to get back on track in week 3, BUT I still missed two of the longer runs.  We were out of town that weekend shooting in Buffalo and I wasn’t about to get up early and run 6 miles in an unfamiliar city.  The following day I was far too exhausted from the 12 hour day of shooting so I decided to skip yet another long run.

I know this is bad.

They say to never skip a long run.  They say that if you’re going to miss any runs try to make it those short ones.  But, we’re still fairly early on in the training and I think I will be okay.  You see, I always have the Intermediate 1 plan to fall back on.  When I look at that schedule and think about my current fitness level I know that I am well ahead of the curve.

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I only opted for the higher schedule to begin with because my longest training run from my prior 28 week plan was 9+ miles.  I knew that my body was already fully capable of going the 10 mile distance and saw no problem with the increased mileage.

So far, the training has been going well.  I don’t feel like it’s burning me out and I don’t feel like it’s too much too soon.  The only conflict I have had been due to a ridiculously busy schedule and illness.

It will get better now that wedding season is dying down and I do plan to work hard to stay on track for week 4.  It’s my goal to have a full week of training under me for this coming week.  So far, I am doing my best to stay on track and plan to do the same for the weekend.  It’s not always easy finding the time or getting up early, but I know it’s going to be a necessity.  I want to push myself harder so that I can PR this next marathon and even hope to run a half at the end of this month (10/19) so I can PR that distance as well.

I can feel both my mind and body getting stronger and know that I can accomplish anything I put my mind to. How are your training plans going?  Have you ever change things up during training?  What plan are you following?

Runner’s Woes: Feeling Like A Turtle

It’s no secret, I am a slow runner.  Heck, this blog is aptly named Slow Mo Mother Runner for a reason!  Anyhow, I’m nearly finished with my second month of marathon training and I can’t help but feel the looming doubt creep in.  I feel like I am getting slower!

How come I’m not getting faster?!  One month ago I was regularly seeing 10:10-10:40 splits for my 5ks and felt I was on the right track, but today I am struggling to hit sub 11:00 splits.  I’m not quite sure what is going on, but I want to make a change.  I want to be faster!

I’ve been considering changing up my training, but am not quite sure where to begin.  This whole running thing is still fairly new to me and when I look at training plans and various routines to get faster I begin to get a touch confused and overwhelmed.  Another factor could be that my body needs more fuel.  I recently discovered that my RMR is 1590 and I’m typically consuming that amount of calories which means I am falling short and my body might be fighting me.

I went for a short mile run the other day just to see how fast I could go if i was going at a slightly higher pace than normal.  I ran the mile in 9:41.  Nothing too crazy, but it did show me that my body is capable of going faster.  Now, it’s a matter of building the endurance at that pace and then working on increasing said pace.
Are you trying to get speedier?  What has worked for you?