Hello friends, I've been meaning to write this post for a hot minute, but I've been indulging in Succession so, yanno. Procrastination.
You see the title. Yes, I already have a series called "My Fitness Journey" that I'll update from time to time. I also have a fitness instagram that I'm updating regularly. So if you keep up with either of those, you might have seen me pick up running here and there, throughout the years. I've been working out fairly consistently since 2019 (just a hiatus in 2021 is all). Throughout this time, I've given myself different challenges. Beyond the monthly challenges Apple watch assigns me, I like to find something new to try, to focus on something I already enjoy a bit more heavily, or to collaborate with my hiking buddy Cooper to determine what we'd both like to improve on overall. Whether I'm taking time out of my regular gym/walking schedule to improve on swimming or take on a 30-day yoga challenge, I'm always looking for the next THING that works for me (except I still don't enjoy yoga too much, I'm sorry to say). It's also important in both staying motivated and pursuing weight loss to mix up the schedule / goals from time to time. As the gym rats say, stay hungry.
I say it in almost every fitness blog entry I write--I started this journey to (a.) lose weight in hopes to get a breast reduction, (b.) feel more energized, and (c.) to feel more in-tune with my body and to feel like, well, me. So a passion I've re-visited, and one I've been absolutely glued to for the past two months or so, is running.
As a brief history recap of my running, I ran a little in high school, when my anxiety got really challenging. I was afraid to leave the house, overall, for about a year, so running on our long driveway was my best option. Overtime, I found that I felt generally happier on the days I ran and a lot less anxious when I maintained that running schedule throughout the summer. I also would practice sprinting uphill and changing paces, running in intervals. I never really did anything super long-distance or endurance-focused. After graduating high school, I stopped prioritizing fitness and started taking Lexapro a couple years later.
In 2020, I did a ton of walking in a nearby park. I was freshly unemployed and super down about it. And the only thing that was keeping me sane in the wake of the Covid shut-downs was visiting a park that was near my apartment at that time. I would go there every day and walk a mile or two. I eventually got the Sweat app and tested out the 30 second interval runs, but I wasn't consistent enough with that and felt like it was too tough of a challenge for me. And yeah, running is hard, especially as a heavier person. Carrying extra weight can be a lot on the legs, so being fresh to running was going to be a challenge. So I told myself to just improve at walking for that time being, and that I'd be ready to start running another time.
And honestly that was a fair point of me to make at the time. Because after that hiatus I briefly mentioned I experienced in the first chunk of 2021, I took up walking and running again. After work, I'd walk or run everyday. And I couldn't really even hold a pace to finish a mile without having to walk at some point in between. I'd go to fast, or I'd not have control of my breathing, or my back would ache because of my frustrating chest size. But I'd still take a stab at it as often as I felt like I could. Some days I would even attempt two miles, but once again, I wouldn't know how to pace myself and I would have to walk in between. But like I alluded to earlier, sometimes it's hard out here for a beginner. And after a few months of attempting to improve, I gave myself a stress fracture in my left foot. I was down for the count for a while. Like I said, I'm an anxious person, so even after my bone healed, I was scared to get back out there. I was nervous to even go on walks again.
But then, in 2022, I started a new job, started a new schedule, and got my shit together, if you will. Cooper and I started going on hikes every weekend again, improving our mileage and strength. We also studied healthy eating and, like I mentioned earlier, we both started setting goals for each other and coined the term "BOOSTIN" for when we'd add additional mileage or push our limits to not just meet our goals, but to surpass them. I started the trend for myself to do three strength training days, and two/three cardio-focused days. And that's still my gym schedule.
So what made me start running again? Well, a couple of things.
The first is that I know how good cardio makes me feel. Cooper and I have test-drove so many things since we started hiking together again in mid-2022. We'd take weekends to swim once in a while, or we'd switch our hilly wooded trails for a long, flat bike path to gain more speed. We also try out some different sports some times and try to shake things up! But no matter what, we're always aiming to improve on our goals and to see things become easier to us. We used to consider 8,000 steps a lot of steps. Which, they kind of are! But now I see Cooper walking 20k steps every day, easy breezy. I've seen major improvements in both my energy and my speed/distance statistics when it comes to longer, more challenging hikes. I handle them a lot better now than I used to. Feeling like I'm able to tackle something challenging, compared to where I might've been a few months prior, is something that keeps me motivated. And both that mental gain that cardio challenges gives me, plus the physical dopamine rush, are what brought me to challenge myself in running.
The second reason is that, with the motivation both Cooper and I constantly geek about when it comes to fitness, I got super excited when I saw Cody Ko make a Cody Trains channel because it's something I can look forward to weekly; to have another person I can see who is super excited to train. First it was Cody's Ultra Marathon video, then the creation of his training YouTube channel that inspired me to actually pick up this challenge and work at it. I also admire Natacha Oceane, especially when she ran a freaking 24hr challenge. She's now training for a 100 mile ultramarathon this year and I'm so excited to watch her focus on running so much more, especially while that's where my focus is lately anyway. Another YouTuber who I've gotten a ton of advice from is Mark Lewis. He has a few different videos on running for beginners, and I've taken the tips and ran with them (pun intended).
The third reason: I got off my antidepressant and need something to work on. Caring for my health and setting goals is a healthy alternative.
The fourth thing was that I want to absolutely annihilate something that I find challenging. Since running has always felt tough for me, I wanted to crack that code. I wanted to give it a bit of time every week to slowly understand how to make it work for me. That includes writing down statistics every week. Seeing quantitative improvements makes me feel like I can prove I'm growing as a runner, while also making note of my energy levels when hitting these runs (i.e. what I share in my fitness instagram posts after my runs).
I've run nine 5Ks now--just on my own, not official events. Some could say I'm making some major strides (another pun intended). As you can see, below are detailed stats I keep in my notes app on my phone. These stats help me feel like I'm competing against myself!
Let's talk about the numbers for a second.
Attempt 1: I ran after watching some Mark Lewis videos. I wanted to test my mile speed, and honestly, I had a really hard time. I didn't even plan to attempt 3.10 miles (aka 5 Kilometers), so my second and third mile are incorporating tiny, non-intentional jogs. I wasn't planning to even check my stats beyond that first mile. But when I actually hit 3.10 miles and saw what that distance looked like, I wanted to try it again. But this time, with more intention.
Attempts 2 through 5: Those were good ole classic attempts. I would be able to complete the first mile a bit easier each time, but the second and third miles were still stop-and-go sorts of things. I still had to pick a landmark to run to, then allow myself a break to catch my breath, then pick the next landmark.
Attempt 6: This was when I ran with Cooper. He completed his 5k in an amazing 30 minutes. I hit an overall time PR, but struggled with energy in that second and third mile again. Definitely still struggling with breathing.
Attempt 7: Achieved my fastest adulthood mile time. I remember my energy feeling great on this run, but those second and third mile splits weren't where I wanted them.
Attempt 8: Just watched Natacha's video about starting runs as a beginner. She spoke about ensuring your goals in the beginning focus on either total distance or on total minutes running. Not speed. She also described zone 1 and 2 training (i.e. running at a pace where you can comfortably speak to your buddy next to you or comfortably are breathing through your nose and staying at a slower pace), and I've heard people like Cody Ko and Noah Samsen speak about these as well. But for some reason, I've never tried out slower speeds. And holy hell, I tried a slower pace--still running, but remaining comfortable, and I felt fantastic. I was able to run the whole 3.10 miles without stopping. Overall time and mile splits are slower than the rest, but my energy was phenomenal. My only goal was completing the distance, not focusing on speed, so I felt so much less pressure and so much more excitement.
Attempt 9: Decided to do a 40 minute run in the morning, once again not focusing on times or on a distance. I just wanted to run for 40 minutes. It was dark out, I dressed in light colors and loved that morning breeze. A different energy in the morning. Comically finished my 40 minutes at exactly a 5k stopping point. That's why it's recorded here. And by the way, I went to work after this run and felt so energized and upbeat all day. I gotta do more runs in the morning! This was also the first run that I felt myself in a flow state. "A flow state of mind combines the two concepts. In essence, flow state is a very active, moving meditation," via Headspace.
I do sprinkle in some shorter runs after work once or twice a week. These are 1 to 2 mile runs. I'll be running a 10th attempt at a longer run today, after I write this blog post, but instead of 3.10 miles, I want to aim for 4 miles. They say to only add 10% distance every week, but considering I've been doing 3.10 miles for 10 weeks now, I feel confident that my energy will still be pristine if I stay in my slower pace. I've been looking forward to this 4-mile attempt all week! I might have to make a new chart for these longer runs. Follow @ grinsandfitness to see updates in real time! So what are my favorite aspects of running so far?
I'm extra kind to myself when I run. I'm my best friend when I run. I hype myself, push myself, feel in-tune with my body. I've been feeling chipper as can be. That's one of the most rewarding parts of this whole experience. Even if I'm doing a slower pace, I'm just happy I can control my breathing and enjoy the scenery around me.
The scenery. I've been researching cute trails around me to run on so I can mix up my surroundings. That keeps things even more exciting, especially with spring arriving. I saw Cody Ko running on a mountain trail with friends in his latest video and I'm thinking I can't wait to travel around and go on runs in cute places. I don't know when I'll have the energy to tackle a mountain run but something as beautiful as that is worth the try some day.
The running community seems incredibly nice. On one of my first attempts, a runner who was coming towards me gave me a high-five as he passed. Like???? Yessir I think I'm officially entered into the club, please and thank you.
The way I feel has changed. To reiterate, my overall goal when starting this fitness journey was to feel as energized and in-tune with my body as possible. Practicing my breathing, being outside, improving at running has helped me feel light on my feet and has encouraged me to keep eating well and hydrating. Being aware of my fitness schedule and my nutrition are crucial parts to improving in this field, and overall, it all helps my mental health.
Finding gear I can geek about. I'm still loving my Raycon earbuds because they don't budge and their battery life is incredible. The audio is also great! I always carry sunglasses with me as well, even if it's overcast, since eye contact with oncoming humans sometimes makes me nervous. I also wear Glossier balm dot com on my lips because if my skin and mouth feel dry, I'll panic. It's a sensory thing, I dunno!
I constantly rave about my favorite apparel finds when it comes to running, because one pesky seam can distract me through the whole thing. Here are some of my favorite finds so far, as a beginner:
Sports bras for me need to be high-impact. I also prefer something tight, not padded. Fabletics and Target have incredible options for this! I try to keep at least a couple of my favorite bras handy, so I know which to wear to the gym and which to wear on my runs.
The shoes! I'm obsessed with the Caheunga Performance Sneaker from Fabletics. I'm not even sure if this exact shoe is still available, but it's a flexible and comfortable shoe. They're also light weight, so I don't feel like I'm dragging my feet along.
Quarter zips and jackets are a big deal, at least in this transitional weather. It's been rainy and windy, so the material matters. I love my C9 Champion zip-up jacket from target because it's compressed to my body and allows me to feel more aerodynamic on my runs. I also am a sucker for the thumb holes on the sleeves. They sort or act like gloves when the temperature is awkward. I also love the quarter zip I got from Athleta. Super comfy material, spiffy style. I'm a sucker for a quarter zip. My next move is to get some quarter-zips that are reflective, for my early-morning runs.
I'm passionate about the pants. The perfect legging for me is the Savage X Fenty high-waist rib legging. It doesn't roll down when I'm running, I don't chafe in them, and they have a big enough pocket for both my phone and keys while, once again, not being weighed down. Gym shark leggings stay up well and I avoid chafing when wearing them, but they don't typically have pockets. Fabletics leggings are great--they have pockets and stay up relatively okay for walks and hikes--but for runs, they slowly fall down.
Gym Shark socks are the comfiest in the world. They don't roll and they look sick as hell.
And lastly, I need to plug my own merch for a second. My G&N tees are super comfy, and I legitimately wear mine every week. They're printed on a Bella + Canvas material so they're comfy and fit really well on every body! Check out the design here.
So anyways, goals moving forward: sign up for an actual 5K this year. Keep improving on distance. Keep running longer runs on the weekends. More morning runs.
Anyways friends, I appreciate you stopping in to read this post! If you've made it this far, feel free to share with friends or comment below! I'd love to know what goals you're currently working towards, whether they're fitness-related or not!