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Couch to 5K: Week 6 – Running Maintenance

Awhile back I promised to write a little bit about the problems I’ve encountered while running and how I’ve dealt with those issues.  I um…  procrastinated and um…then kind of forgot.  Shocking, I know.  But today, a friend wrote to me on my Facebook wall and it reminded me that I really wanted to document all of this.  So here I am!  Documenting.

I think the first thing to know is that the internet is your friend.  There is NO END to resources out there.  I know you’re probably thinking, “Um duh, Heather!”  I think my very favorite way to learn is though a very basic form of crowd-sourcing.  I LOVE posting a question or problem on my facebook wall and seeing the variety of answers and ideas.  Real experiences are so much more valuable to me than textbook cases.  So, hopefully some of my experiences can be helpful too.

I’m having trouble with my lungs can not seem to get a deep enough breath. I don’t smoke or have many allergy problems, also & this maybe a question for a doctor, today my knee & neck randomly started hurting after my run. Last I am looking for a new pair of shoes, just wondering what you run in… thanks again

Breathing: The first few times I ran, I DIED.  I mean like crazy heavy breathing that left me feeling more winded than anyone in there right mind would want to be.  I attributed it to being a beginner and just kept on.  One problem for me is I HATE feeling like I can’t breathe and when I am winded like that I tend to panic, only making the whole situation worse.  I knew I needed to relax and when it didn’t improve much, I started to wonder if I was breathing incorrectly.  As it turns out I was doing it ALL wrong.

First things first, breathing in through your nose and breathing out through your mouth doesn’t count for running.  Nose breathing isn’t going to get you enough oxygen to carry you through your run.  The idea is to breathe IN through your nose and mouth at the same time getting as much oxygen as possible.  Take breaths from your belly, these are deeper than from your chest.  Then breathe OUT through your mouth.  Every so often I also exhale quite forcefully to rid my lungs of excess CO2.  If my lungs are holding any CO2 then that’s space where oxygen can’t be.  The other biggest help for me was keeping a steady breathing pace, rather than breathing erratically.  This took A LOT of practice and didn’t come naturally, but once I got it…  I got it.

Livestrong has some great advice on breathing.  Although at this time I find trying to follow a 3:2 ratio is unreasonable for me.  I also breathe quite loudly and the article suggests I shouldn’t.  I believe this is partly a beginner problem as my lungs are still adjusting and strengthening.  When I run I do seem to get a little winded within a few minutes, but as long as I practice what I know about breathing I do level out and hit a point where I feel like I could run forever.  (That is IF my calves would hold out!  All in good time I am sure)

Knees: I have experienced some sore knees, but this was not until after I ended up with nasty shin splints.  What I learned from friends and articles was that sore knees can be due to a tight IT band.  So I began some stretches that were directly related to that.  Also, I  used advil to keep inflammation down and ice for 20 minutes ASAP after my run.

Neck: I really have no advice here.  Although in the beginning I did have some neck trouble.  I have a large chest.  It took awhile for my neck to become accustomed to the new activity.  I don’t mean running.  I mean the bounce CAUSED by the running.  I have the sports bra of steel…  but still.

Sneakers:  I was wearing these.  But after a few weeks I realized that they aren’t made for feet.  They are terribly stiff and too narrow in the toes.  I very quickly hated them.  Now I wear these and I’ve been love from day 1!  These are a minimalist shoe and really do make me feel like I’m barefoot.  Honestly, I haven’t had any knee pain or shin splint pain since I started wearing them (this may or may not be a coincidence since I put all the work in to get rid of those issues).  The biggest differences I notice is 1. comfort level and 2. my feet are working harder so they were more tired after a run the first 2 times I wore them.  I’ve run in them 3 times, so this all has plenty of time to change.  Also I bought a half size up in my running shoe.  I am normally a 6.5, but I bought a 7.  Feet swell during running and you need room for that in your shoes.

I think the very best thing that I’ve done for myself is maintenance.  Running is really hard on the body and can require a lot of maintenance work.  Especially in the beginning.  Every time something comes up, I research the heck out of it and deal with the problem immediately.  For example, when I began an old painful hip injury resurfaced so I looked up hip strengthening exercises and within 2 weeks I was pain free in my hip.  When my neck was sore, I found some stretches for sore necks and did them faithfully for weeks.  Same with my shins and my knees.  I’ve also recently started doing yoga from runners.  I hate yoga.  Errr…  I hated yoga.  Now I look forward to it and know that it is helping me.  In the long run (no pun intended) all of this is paying off and means I can run farther and actually feel good about it and not like I’m about to die a thousand times over.

As someone who hated exercising on purpose, I can truly say that I look forward to our runs.  5 weeks ago, on day 1 of Couch to 5K 60 seconds of jogging left me completely winded, but 2 days ago I ran for 20 minutes without stopping!  (Woot!!!)  It’s a big challenge and you CAN do it, but you HAVE to listen to your body and take care of it when it needs you to.  When I wanted to start running the maintenance part didn’t really occur to me.  Now I like to think of it as working out the kinks.

Happy run/walk/jog!  How are YOU doing?

(Have more advice?  Post it in the comments!)


  1. REgina Esposito says:

    Great advice! I kinda feel like telling my self “duh”. I noticed your sneaker are trail runners, I thought you were running on the road. The sneakers I want to try are also trail runners, but I will be on the road sometimes, so I was just curious how that was working out for you. I think its incredible how well you are doing. Keep up the good work.

  2. Regina Esposito says:

    How am I doing?… I love running especially in the woods. I hope to “work out the kinks” as you said & increase my endurance. I want to run the SPAC rock & run 5k next year. Not ready this year. I can only run for about 5-10mins at a time. Then I have to stop & speed walk for a bit, usually because I can’t breath. I can’t wait to try your breathing tip. Have fun & happy running!.

  3. Heather says:

    I am! When I researched my first shoe it didn’t actually SAY it was a trail runner and the salesperson did not mention it. So this fact escaped me. Maybe this is why I hated my shoe??? I do mostly run on the road, but sometimes we run off the side of the road too. With the barefoot shoe, I’m unsure this actually matters. I went with the shoe that fit my feet the best. I have a very wide ball of my foot and needed something that accommodates that. There are some super treaded trail runners, those might not work on the road so well. Once we finish our program we also want to start finding some trails to run so I guess it’s a win-win. :)

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