I’m home from Hatteras and it’s back to reality…including the reality of the post-Miss VA “padding” I’ve acquired. My parents and myself have chosen to battle the results of our beach week bingeing by returning to Weight Watchers Online, our favorite way to track our eating habits and stay motivated to make healthy choices. I have a very obsessive personality, so being able to track what I eat and “geek-out” with the online tools really works for me!
Of course, eating healthy is most effective when paired with physical activity—the recommended minimum is 30 minutes each day. But to achieve a lean, toned, pageant physique, I’ll have to go above and beyond the minimum! Two years ago, before I competed in my first local preliminary for Miss VA, I started running to improve my fitness, along some light weight-lifting. The running, which admittedly is more like jogging (I’m slow!), worked like a charm! I was energetic & slim and it was great for lower-body toning. I won the swimsuit award in that first pageant, much to my surprise!
Unfortunately, my hectic school schedule eventually got the best of me and I no longer had the extra encouragement from my dad, an avid runner and half-marathoner. My regular jogging turned into an occasional painful trip to the treadmill. I’ve rediscovered the inner motivation, though, and I’m jumping back on the jogging bandwagon. This time, I’ve developed a five-step plan to stay on track (pun intended) and keep moving.
Step 1. New running shoes (and socks!): It’s extremely important to have running shoes with the proper fit. I recommend going to a running specialty store, like Ragged Mountain Running Shop in Charlottesville, to get fitted for the first pair. The trained fit specialists will ask you what activity you plan to use the shoes for and then look at your old shoes to analyze wear. Next you’ll put on the old shoes and jog back and forth in the store (semi-awkward) while they watch your gait. Based on their observations & analysis, they’ll recommend a pair with the correct cushioning, support, etc. for your needs. Don’t forget to replace your shoes every 400 miles to prevent injury. Extend your shoes’ lifetime by ONLY wearing them for running/exercise. Save your old pair for “knocking around”.
After buying the first pair at the potentially overpriced retail location, you can purchase future replacements in the comfort of your own home and search for the best deals online. Or, you can continue to support your local retailer–approximately 63% of the money you spend will return to the community through taxes and other fees! I personally wear the Asics GT-2150 and just got a new pair in the fresh “Island Blue” color.
Socks are another important part of the equation. Socks specifically designed for running will save you from the pain of blisters, chafing, and other forms of irritation. Thorlos(R) are my personal favorite. They wick moisture and have padding in all the right places. I always got blisters before I had these socks. At $13-14 a pair, they’re a little pricey, but totally worth it!
Step 2. Get the right gear. Luckily, I’m already set in this department. It’s important to have running shorts (or skirts, which are growing in popularity!) that don’t bunch up, ride up, or give you wedgies; comfortable, supportive sports bras; and moisture-wicking, lightweight shirts/tanks. I’ve learned this the hard way, through uncomfortable runs! Target has a great selection of activewear, and you can easily get by with only 2-3 outfits if you don’t mind doing laundry. Do a load with just your running clothes and use a detergent intended for activewear to fight those sweaty odors!
Also be sure to secure your hair back properly. I always have a problem with this, because my hair is super thick and it’s long, so my ponytail always falls loose. Wearing a baseball cap and pulling my pony through the loop helps, and doubles up to protect my eyes and face from the sun. Don’t forget to lather on the SPF!
Step 3. Set a goal. For me, the goal of increasing my fitness level just wasn’t concrete enough to keep me motivated. This time, I’m trying something new. After some brief online research, I’ve decided to enter my first 5K race! At 3.1 miles, a 5K is a very attainable goal and having the date on the calendar will really keep me focused. I will be doing the Star City Women’s 5K on October 1st. The race is sponsored by the Star City Striders, Roanoke’s running club. One the best things about races is that the proceeds typically go towards a charity…physical fitness & philanthropy?? Who could say “no”?! This particular race benefits both the running club and Children’s Trust. I’ll be saving the children one stride at a time!
Step 4. Make a plan. It’s not wise to participate in a race without the proper training, and since fitness is my overall intention anyways, I need to have a plan and stick with it! Sometimes, with exercise, it can be overwhelming to try to determine what you should do, how gradually to increase your intensity, etc. It’s easy to take on too much too fast, leading to injury or just wearing yourself out so much you never want to try again! Luckily, with the internet at my fingertips, I can access the pros in 0.12 seconds, according to Google. I’ll be following Hal Higdon’s “Training for your first 5K” 8-week plan. Although I could probably handle the intermediate version, I decided to stick with the novice plan to avoid the “too much too fast” syndrome. Today I’ll do a 1.5 mile run, but I’m waiting for the evening to avoid this afternoon heat. I’m not a morning person, so getting up early to run is just not going to happen for me!
Step 5. Provide incentives. It’s important to reward yourself for hard work! In my case, my dad is going to reward me, since he is my fellow family runner (and the one with the funds!). I really want a running watch with GPS, so I can track my time, pace, distance, and other data. My dad gave me his old one when I first took up running, but it was so large my hand practically dragged on the ground and the GPS was slow and unreliable, easily interfered with by tree cover—can you say “dinosaur”? I really like the Garmin Forerunner 110 for its sleek design and its many features, including a PC or Mac syncing option that allows you to upload your workout data, track progress, and set goals (hooray! something else for me to obsess over!). To ensure I’ll actually stick with my plan and use the gadget, my dad is making me wait to the 3-week mark of my training plan, which is now decorated by the words “GPS Watch!” inside of a bubble. Perhaps I’ll give myself a gold star that day as well.
Registering for the race provides its own incentive to show up on race day, as I value commitments highly (and don’t want to lose that 20 bucks!), but don’t forget about the race t-shirt! I’ll wear it proudly, possibly with a new pair of cold-weather running tights. Stay tuned for future blogs about running! I’d love to hear your stories and running experiences…feel free to comment below.