Some Unsolicited Running Advice from a Self-Appointed "Expert"

As I mentioned yesterday in my deeply empowering half marathon recap, I am all in on this running lifestyle. I have drunk (drank?) the kool-aid! Well, Gatorade, if we're being precise. I might go so far as to call myself a runner. Last week a friend of mine asked me how I got myself into running, saying that learning to love the sport is a goal of hers. I adore talking about myself and pretending to be an expert so I figured I'd share my tips for the whole WORLD to enjoy. For the record this is a real person, named Katie. I'm not just making this up so I can continue to brag about my physical fitness.

So! Just a few verbose (as always!) thought below, may they inspire you to love running as much as I have. And I knowwww this is getting boring, I swearity-swear this is my last running post for at least a week.

HOW TO BECOME A RUNNER:

ADVICE FROM SOMEONE WHO JUST RAN THEIR FIRST HALF MARATHON AND NOW THINKS SHE'S A TOTAL EXPERT 

1a) Sign up for a race. 

Having a goal to work towards gives you a light at the end of the tunnel, a reason to get up from the couch and pound the pavement. There are plenty of races for every level from beginner to pro. Pro races are also known as The Olympics and if you're qualified for those you probably don't need to be reading this blog.

1b) Then tell EVERYONE. 

This step is possibly the most vital step of all. The more people you tell about your race plans, the dopier you'll look if you drop out.  Registering for a race is a big step, but does it even count if no one knows? If a tree falls in a forest, etc? I suppose you could just rely on your own self for motivation but personally I am most moved by the admiration and acceptance of other people, so I made sure to tell literally the entire internet the moment I signed up for my half marathon and then when I trained, I visualized myself crossing the finish line to applause and then instantly uploading photos to multiple social media forums where my loved ones would heap praise upon me.

I am a) barely exaggerating and b) not ashamed and can't stress highly enough how important step 1b is to your success.

2) Dress the part.

Until very recently, I was completely unconvinced as to the necessity of quote-unquote workout clothes. Why would I spend my hard earned money on UnderArmor leggings and tank tops when I could wear a free t-shirt from some kind of college volunteer day and a pair of enormous Nike soccer shorts that I have had since literally 2008 when I purchased because they were part of the official uniform of the US Women's World Cup Team? Girls who wear cute workout clothes can't possibly be taking it seriously. They're just trying to look adorable, unlike me over here in my grungy apparel, holding my shorts up with a safety pin. A true athlete!

My attitude was entirely changed this Christmas, when Brian's parents sweetly gifted me with some warm weather running gear - a pair of black tights with jazzy hot pink pattern zipping up the calves and a matching hot pink zip-up jacket. It was unlike anything I would ever purchase for myself, but it instantly became my favorite outfit and somewhat of a motivational costume. Putting it on I transformed from casual jogger to Hot Running Girl! Fit and fashionable.

I've since purchased a few "running" outfits and they help keep me motivated. Putting on my sweat-wicking tank top and compression capris tells my brain: "NOW WE ARE RUNNING!" Silly? Maybe! But it works for me.

If you're in the market, Marshall's & TJ Maxx always have tons of name brands on supersale and Old Navy, my #1 favorite clothing retailer has a great line of workout attire at spectacular prices!

All this said, don't go too overboard, this is still a workout, not a fashion show. And NO ONE likes the girl who matches  her bellybutton ring to her neon crop-top. A little subtly goes a long way.

3) Make a Plan...and Keep Visual Track of your Progress 

The internet is chock FULL of free training plans for all sorts of races. I've heard rave reviews about the Couch to 5K program for beginners and Runners World has a series of training plans for every level.

I worked with a plan by some guy called Hal Higdon, with a few tweaks by my personal trainer, Brian. I loved this training plan - simple, adaptable and knowing exactly what was expected of me each week helped me to stay motivated and energized.

I made a series of calendars for myself for the duration of my training process, indicating what was on the lineup for each day and also leaving a space for me to write what I actually achieved that day. Most training plans are very general, just Week 1, Week 2, etc and for me, seeing the physical calendar dates was helpful.

For the first month I was diligent about updating with my actual mileage and though I sort of fell off that wagon by month 2, I still consulted the calendar regularly to remind myself what was upcoming. Seeing the long run distance inch up by one mile per week made me feel like such a badass.

4) Reward Yourself

Cheese burgers after long runs? DON'T MIND IF I DO.

5) Have a Buddy

I ran this race by myself, but had lots of buddies helping me prep for it. I had Brian running beside me on all of my long runs, encouraging me every day and standing on the sidelines cheering for me while I raced. My cousin Dani ran her first half marathon a few weeks before I did and we emailed back and forth about how much we loved it and another cousin, Kelly who took up running around the same time and has been slaying it in races all spring, shares inspirational quotes and photos on Facebook, encouraging me to keep it up too . And my friend Mary also ran her first half earlier this spring, so we'd compare training notes, run along the river together after work and bond over our new-found obsession with running. Weirdly enough, Mary and I got basically the exact same times on our first half marathons! How cool is that.

There are lots of local running clubs in my area, but I've been hesitant to join one, the huge group mentality kind of stresses me out and I wasn't quite ready to make that commitment. But maybe it'll work for you! Or find one pal to train with or just see who else in your group of friends/office is a runner and bond with them.  It is fun to have someone to comiserate with and, like my crazy mentality that if you tell everyone you'll be less likely to quit, it helps me to feel like I'm  not alone...I'm running for Brian and Mary and Kelly and Dani and everyone!

In the whole world!!!!!

Grandiose, much?!

7) Rock the Tunes

I never listened to music while running until very recently. I'd either run with Brian and talk to him or run on the treadmill and watch old episodes of How I Met Your Mother. I also didn't know how to play music on my phone because I am the worlds smartest modern human. Luckily, this spring I discovered both Songza and Google Play Music and with their help was able to put together a pretttty baller running playlist.

Running to Songza (or Pandora, I guess) is super fun because you don't know what song is coming next, so it's a fun surprise every time! This helped me to discover some awesome throwbacks from college (ain't no Hollaback Girl!) and then spend most of my run just reminiscing about listening to those songs on repeat with my pals. I then figured out how to create my own playlists, but still like to play on shuffle so I'm always on my toes. This is really boring...why don't I just stop talking and share what I'm jamming to lately: 

  • Lorde, Royals 
  • Pitbull & Ke$ha, Timber (I could basically listen to this song on repeat all day and night both while running and just while going about my day.) 
  • Rihanna, Don't Stop the Music 
  • Danity Kane, Damaged (cue memories of 2008 girls vacation to Miami!) 
  • Taylor Swift, We Are Never Ever Ever Getting Back Together (LIKE I wasn't going to have some Swizz on here)
  • One Direction, Best Song Ever (I'm an adult!)
  • Katy Perry, Roar 
  • Katy Perry, Teenage Dream
  • Katy Perry, T.G.I.F (I just really like Katy Perry)
  • Nicki Minaj, Starships
  • Kanye West et. al, Monster (I always go extra hard during Nicki's verse. You can be the king now watch the queen conquer!) 
  • Icona Pop, I Don't Care 
  • Austin Mahone, Mmm Hmm Yeah (I have no idea who this person is and I'm pretty sure he might be 12 but it came on my songza one day and features Pitbull and I can't say no to Pitbull and now I love this song.) 
  • Anything Taio Cruz has ever done: Dynamaite, Break Your Heart and my personal favorite song Hangover, which introduces the genius term "shitfaceded" 
  • Flo Rida, Wild Ones
  • Nelly, Country Grammar 
  • Kelly Clarkson, Stronger
  • Sara Bareilles, Brave 
  • Destiny's Child, Bootylicious
  • Jackson Five, ABC 
  • Little Mix, Wings (again, I have no idea who these people are but this song is a jimmity jam)
  • Avicii, Wake Me Up (I don't really approve of Electronic Dance Music or "EDM" as the kids/cools are calling it but I do like this song!)
  • Bastille, Pompeii (heyyydey oh, hey-dey) 
  • Cobra Starship, Good Girls Gone Bad
  • Beyonce, Crazy in Love (obviously always and forever) 

6) Don't Be Afraid to look Dumb

I was talking to someone recently who didn't want to run in public because they were worried they'd look dumb. And as much as I want to pretend to be above that, I totally get it. Fear of looking stupid is one of the main reasons I quit trying yoga so I need to learn to practice what I preach. So for both me and all of you to keep in mind: who cares! Who cares if you stop and walk or run slow or think you swing your arms weird or if you air drum while running and dance at stoplights. Everybody looks weird doing everything and no one is paying attention to you, they're all busy worrying about what they look like.

8) Just. Keep. Running. 

This is a little hippie dippy and hard to quantify but at a certain point your brain is going to want to stop running and you're going to have to tell it to shut the eff up. One of the simultaneously most exciting and challenges for me while training was when I realized that my body could  keep running. That when I felt tired or bored or ready to quit it wasn't my body giving out but my brain giving up. I had to figure out how to shut off the part of me that wanted to quit, walk and go home and just. keep. running.

I don't know what to tell you to do this in your life. For me, it was turning up my music, staring right ahead and literally saying, out-loud (see what I said about looking weird?!): "you've got this, Liz. Keep going." And then I'd keep going.

In the time it took you to think about quitting, your legs probably went two, three, four more steps. You CAN do it.

9) Go Ahead and Brag! 

Proud of your training or your race time? Pat yourself on the back! Go ahead and upload that finish line photo to multiple social media feeds and watch the likes roll in.

10) Always End Lists with Even Numbers! 

And those are my tips!

I am obviously super clearly not an expert but people (one person) were begging for my advice (politely asking about my training routine) and I have to give the world what it wants! I hope this inspires at least one person to get out and start running both because it's super fun and also because I'm DYING to be considered a positive role model.

Now, let me ask you: How do YOU get motivated - to run or otherwise? Runners, anything you think I'm missing? Any workout songs you'd suggest?! 

Thanks for reading this! I have no idea how to end this post. OK BYE!  Smooches!

 

Another Awkward Week [4.25.14]

Hi guys!! How was everybody's week? Mine was extremely eventful. As you'll see below! I only wish it had been a scoonch warmer, you know? It's so hard to get dressed this time of year. It's freezing in the mornings, warm during the day and chilly again at night. It's not warm enough for bare legs, and yet I hate the idea of wearing tights into April. I guess an answer would be to wear tights to the office and then take them off...just maybe not in a public place, like this person did:

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Yes those ARE a pair of ladies' stockings sitting on top of our communal office microwave. Gross? UM YEAH. What the WHAT?! I don't even want to know how this happened. I swear these aren't mine, guys. You know I'd tell you. And even I'm not THAT weird.

What's up for everybody's weekend?  My half marathon is tomorrow morning. AAAAAH! I'm so excited. Slash nervous. But mostly excited. But mostly nervous. Just kidding, I"m excited!' Right now the weather channel is calling for rain during just the exact hours while I'll be running. Adorable, Mother Nature, truly charming. But I won't let it get me stressed. I will race in the rain! If Garth Stein can do it, so can I.

(Fist bump to any nerds who get that reference!)

I'll wait until after I finish to wax poetic about my new found love of running, and how empowered it's made me feel and how I've become the sort of person who can talk about say "empowered" in a totally serious way. But I will state right now, on the public record, that even if I don't finish the race (which I totally will!) (But just in case!) that I am so dang proud of myself for undertaking this challenge. Just in the training, I've pushed myself farther than I thought I could go and it feels so good. I'm shamelessly patting myself right on the back.

You go, self!

Ok enough of this mumbo jumbo. I have to start carbo loading immediately & I have MUCH to share, so let's cut right to the chase and take a look at what was keeping it awkward this week.

This Iron:

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Totally unplugged!

But I couldn't remember if I truly did unplug it after half-assedly ironing a shirt on Monday morning so instead of taking a gym/lunch break, I left my desk at 9:45 AM, took the subway all the way back to Brooklyn, reassured myself I was not burning down the apartment, and returned to the office.

Nuts? Maybe! Possibly yes.  know it seems a little crazy, but I couldn't shake the anxiety and I knew I'd get no work done if I didn't just quiiiickly check. I'm working hard to manage my emotions and not let my worries get the best of me, but usually my worries are totally abstract and insane, like, if Brian doesn't respond to an email for a little bit, I assume he's either dead, or cheating on me. Or BOTH: he's cheating and was just murdered by his mistress in a fit of lustful rage. Or if I have a weird throat tickle, I instantly assume it's, at best, a viral infection, at worst: fatal cancer.

Those sorts of mega-fears, I can quiet, convince myself are not true, but leaving the iron turned on, smoldering my apartment into a fiery blaze? TOTALLY within the realm of possibility.

I have no regrets! Except ironing in the first place. Next time something's wrinkly, I'm just throwing it in the garbage. Ain't nobody got time for this!

This Faucet:

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This faucet spray nozzle thing is an excellent tool, especially when rinsing out the sink or blasting especially hard to clean dishes, like the inside of the reusable plastic straw from your travel smoothie mug. To make it work, you turn on the regular faucet, pull out the spray nozzle and push a button and WHOOSH! Power blast. As soon as you release the button, the water once again runs just out of the regular faucet.

Why am I even going into this? Y'all know how to use sinks.

I, however, do not.

I always wash dishes first thing when I wake up, while Brian's in the shower and the coffee's going, it's all part of my slow wake-up routine. The other morning I must not have been awake enough, or like, at all, because I used the spray nozzle and then tried to put it back in its holder without removing my finger, effectively SOAKING myself.

20140422_065458

Like, soaking.

And once again, may I present a real-life counterpart to a fantasy. I like to sleep in Brian's old button-downs because they're really comfortable and also I imagine that they're super sexy. Like, you know that scene in basically every movie and TV show ever where the male hero sleeps with a new woman and then wakes up in the morning and there she is, wearing his oversized shirt and nothing else, leaning against the doorframe with a mug of coffee, bathed in the morning sunlight smiling like a perfect, sensual angel?

Andd then we have reality: oversized shirt, usually buttoned incorrectly so it hangs crookedly, atop a pair of 1 zillion year old pajama bottoms, messy grease-mop of hair, smeared mascara everywhere because NO MATTER HOW MANY HOURS I spend trying to take off my eye makeup, I always wake up with smudges under my eyes and water everywhere.

A perfect, sensual angel!!!!

This Bus Seat:

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This weekend Brian & I were in Philly visiting my sister for Easter and we took the city bus uptown to the Art Museum area to spend some time outside. When we got on, we found three empty seats together and promptly plopped our booties down. Point two seconds later, I felt a weird wetness seeping onto my thigh, and realized my seat had a wet spot right smack dab in the middle.

I leapt to my feet, touched the now wet spot on my running tights, smelled my hand to assure myself it wasn't pee (it wasn't! I swear. Maybe it was but I say it was just water and I'm sticking to that story) and the three of us moved up to the next row of seats all, mercifully, bone dry.

Our new seats were right above the ones we'd just abandoned and at the next stop a man got on and immediately went to sit in the wet seat.

"That seat is wet!" I squawked, not wanting to anyone to suffer my same fate.

He thanked me and moved to another spot.

At the next stop a young woman got on and where do you think she headed? You know!

I blurted out another warning: "That seat's wet!" and she nodded in thanks before even beginning to sit.

The next stop...repeat! And repeat and repeat and repeat for essentially every single stop on our 15 minute bus ride. I had somehow become the de-facto guardian of everyone's butts. Once I'd warned one passenger, and then a second, the pattern had been established. I couldn't just stop warning them...I knew the seat was wet AND everybody else on the bus knew I knew the seat was wet because I told them when they got on, so not only would I knowingly allow someone to soak their bottom, but everyone would know my deceit and oh, how they would judge.

Being a good Samaritan is exhausting, guys.

Also, just for my own sanity, could you all please reassure me that it was totally just water and not pee?!

This Liquor Store:

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So Pennsylvania has these ridiculously strict liquor laws about how and when and where and in what quantity alcohol can be purchased and consumed. One positive result of this is that the majority of restaurants in the Philadelphia area are BYOB and thus, fabulously affordable. However, a negative consequence of this is that it's nearly impossible to find a place to purchase  said B. In NYC, at least in the yuppie, gentrified neighborhoods I frequent, wine and liquor stores are as easy to come upon as Duane Reades and Chase ATM's and you can buy beer at bodegas, grocery stores, even CVS. But in Philly, there are like three state-run liquor stores, all spread across the city and they're only open from like noon to five on Saturday's and you have to buy beer at a special beer distributor and it's just a whole hot mess. I know this next sentence is going to make me sound like some kind of raging wino and I swear I'm not, but whenever I'm in town I get very stressed about where and how we're going to purchase wine. The pleasure of BYOB dinners are instantly negated when you have to add on a 4 mile trek to the nearest State Store just to get your $8 bottle of Rex Goliath Sauvignon Blanc.

I'm getting stressed now just thinking about it!

So anyway, blah blah, last Saturday we were in Philadelphia with Margerie, like I mentioned above. At about 3 PM we had just finished a 10-mile run (humblebrag) up by the Art Museum and were heading back to her home in South Philly, many miles away. We had 9:30 PM dinner reservations at a (BYOB) Italian place on her block and decided we'd spend the time between sitting on her patio, soaking up the sun and sipping homemade sangria. We just needed to pick up some wine! We figured it would be easier to grab while uptown than back in her 'hood, so we used our trusty smartphones to search for the nearest wine distributor.

"There's one just a few blocks away," Maggie told us, looking up from her Google Maps. "And right by a bus stop, too." And off we went, following the map to the address they'd listed: 1814 Kater St.

When we got to Kater Street, we were dubious. It appeared to be entirely residential, a small alley flanked by identical townhouses. 1820, 1818, 1816...finally we came upon 1814 and it was not a wine store or a store of any kind, but a private residence. The map told us we were standing in front of Vinocity Events but we were quite clearly not.

A man was outside of the house next door, playing with his adorable children. He saw us looking lost and asked us what we were looking for.

"Wine!" we replied in unison.

Totally normal. This man is just trying to enjoy a day with his kids while strange winos dressed in workout gear roam his pleasant residential street.

He gave us a few addresses and sent us on our way, but we decided to just take the bus back to Maggie's and try downtown.

Upon our return, we asked Maggie's roommate where the nearest wine store was located (Maggie doesn't know her nearest wine store? Are we even related?) and she gave us some convoluted directions to walk a few blocks to the Safeway, through the parking lot and "it's right near the Home Depot."

Sure? Marge seemed to understand what she was talking about so off we went! We trudged through Maggie's cute neighborhood, then a sort of shady area full of gas stations near the highway and then came upon the Safeway, nestled among a smattering of strip malls. We walked through the parking lot and scanned the storefronts - FedEx, Dress Barn, Krafty Korner...but no wine. We came to the end of the parking lot and saw the Home Depot in front of us, but still hadn't located the wine.

We were standing on the street corner next to a pop-up tent selling Easter flowers, looking lost, when suddenly we heard a voice.

"Hey ladies. You lost? Looking for the gym?"

We turned around. The flower seller must have spotted us from his tent and assumed from our running clothes that we were headed to work out.

"The opposite!" we replied. "We're looking for the liquor store."

"Liquor! Niiiiiiceeeee" he leered, looking us up and down. "What are you guys drinking? You partying tonight?"

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a small child lingering in the flower tent, probably his own son. Real classy, dude. We tried to extricate ourselves from the conversation, and fast.

"Can you just tell us where the State Store is?" we asked, avoiding eye contact.

"Oh yeahhhhh...you just take a left, walk past the safe way and over to the Meinike and you'll find it. If you go under the highway, you've gone to far. You ladies have a great time partying tonight, drink up, yeahhhhh."

First of all: GROSS, DUDE, GROSS.

Second of all: WHAT THE FUCK, PHILADELPHIA!?! Why are you making it so hard to buy wine! Why do we have to wander around in car repair parking lots and under highways just to find the nearest liquor store?! I don't know if the state thinks that by limiting alcohol vendors they'll reduce consumption but this whole excursion is DRIVING ME TO DRINK.

Finally we found what we were looking for, hidden behind a Jiffy Lube. We grabbed a family sized jug of Barefoot and a smaller, more sophisticated Cupcake to bring to dinner and hightailed it out of there.

At this point we'd run 10 miles, walked about 1 more to get to the "Vinocity Events" aka some man's house, then walked at least two more to find this stupid godforsaken liquor store and we still had to get home. We had no water. My legs were cramping, I wanted to cry.

I suddenly understand why Frodo is such a whiny brat throughout Lord of the Rings.  Epic journeys are exhausting!

Next time I go to Philly, I"m B-ing my own B all the way from New York.

Annnnd the end. What a week, you guys. WHAT A WEEK! What's everyone up to this weekend? I hope you have plenty of wine, whatever it may be.

I'm off to eat 36 bagels, refresh Weather.com repeatedly and pretend to be calm. Wish me luck!

xoxo Liz Ho