I received a couple of questions lately that I think are worth answering publicly, just in case anyone else was wondering…
Q: How do you calculate what to eat before you have a long run for the evening, etc.?
A: First of all, I am not an expert. I’m sure you all know this, but it makes me feel better to say it. Second, I just started doing the following method and it’s working for me now, but we shall see how it goes down the road.
I began paying more attention to my calories about a month ago. Even with all the running, I was not losing weight and I need/want to lose about 30 pounds. Right now, I am 5’7-1/2” (the ½ counts!) and weigh about 170 pounds. Then, I read this article by RunnerDude and it started to make sense. (I have either lost weight or stayed the same since then.) I started writing down what I was eating and figuring out the calories for each meal, snack, etc. This is easy to do as there are a number of different Web sites that will tell you how many calories something is. I just enter the food item in Bing to find out.
In the last few weeks my mid-week night runs have been getting longer and longer as I am nearing the end of training. It’s really important for me to fuel correctly when I have longer runs or I just don’t have any energy and have a miserable time. Unfortunately, I have only really figured this out in the last couple of weeks.
I have to thank Robyn at Wannabe Writer and Runner because she wrote about how she signed up for a free calories/food/weight tracker Web site called My Fitness Pal. I checked it out and signed up. Overall, I really like it. It’s not perfect, but it helps me keep track more easily and it automatically tells me how many calories I have (based on the exercise amount I entered) and how many I have remaining. (I checked the calories it suggests against my calculations that were based on RunnerDude’s article and they are very, very close – only a few calories off.)
I’ve only had one weigh-in since I began using the MFP tracker, and I lost one pound (and that was even with that day that I ate enough calories for a 9-miler, but didn’t get to run thanks to a schedule issue that you can read about here).
If you are trying to lose weight and run, and you have to do your workouts toward the end of the day, I would suggest checking out the My Fitness Pal tracker.
Q: When you first started running, what was your pace?
A: I wish I had a Garmin back in July 2009, when I started running again after many, many years. It would be so cool to see my progress. But I didn’t get AJ II until Christmas (thank you, Mr. T), which is really just fine because how was I supposed to know that I would actually fall in love with running and continue to do it, and not quit like I do with so many other things.
When I first started running in July, I was recovering from a painful herniated disc. I was overweight (although, I’d lost a few pounds because I began Weight Watchers online in May) and sitting a lot, as I was focused on my writing and my child, who had just turned 1. I’d tried going to the chiropractor and was a couple weeks away from scheduling surgery to fix the bulging disc and alleviate the constant pain in my lower back. It hurt for me to walk, sit, lay down, and I am pretty sure I was depressed. I just kept thinking about people with chronic pain. How do they go on?
The neurosurgeon suggested trying a cortisone shot, which I did. At first, it didn’t seem to work, but after a couple of weeks, I noticed that walking around didn’t hurt as much as it did before. The surgeon explained that the disc could, in fact, heal itself if I helped it. I didn’t want to have surgery, so I decided to see if I could go a little longer and let my body fix the problem. I needed to avoid straining my lower back, and one of the ways to do that was to strengthen the muscles around the area (my core). I also iced and stretched a lot, and learned how to lift with my legs and stomach muscles (which were basically non-existent after having a baby and not exercising).
Then, because it was summer, I began taking T Junior for walks in his red plastic car. After a few days of that, I decided to jog a few steps, just to see what it felt like. It felt okay, and the next day I put on my old running shoes and started this blog.
I wanted to be fit again. I was a jock all the way up through college until I got into the real world and didn’t know how to work out on my own. I wanted to be the kind of mom that could play sports with her son (when he gets older) and not just watch him. And I knew this would take some time.
So I started very slow. I alternated walking and running and even stretching on the trail by my house, and I was mainly focused on continuing for a specific amount of time: 30 minutes, 50 minutes. I had no idea how to tell how far I was going until a friend told me about Map My Run.
Then I began to map out a distance and I would check the time I started and the time I stopped. Looking back at those early posts, I’m guessing I was doing about a 15-minute pace. Three months later, I ran my first half marathon at about an 11-minute pace. My second half marathon, about four months after my first, was about a 10-minute pace.
I’ve noticed that when I lose a couple pounds, running faster seems easier, but I’m not sure if that’s mental or physical.
I wanted to answer this question for two reasons:
1) It’s really not that important how fast you are going, especially at the beginning. What is important is that you DO NOT quit. That you get out there on a regular basis – that is what makes you a runner. You can miss a day (or two even), but don’t throw out the whole week because of it. (Sign up for a race if you need some motivation.) I also think starting slow is key. Don’t overdo it and hurt yourself. You never know, if you get hurt, you may not start again.
2) Getting faster takes time. There are a lot of fast ladies and gentlemen blogging, but I can guarantee that they worked on their running and got faster with lots of practice (tempo runs, hills, cross training, strength, track workouts) and time. I admit I felt inadequate when I first discovered all the wonderful running blogs out there, and saw acronyms like PR and BQ. I had to remind myself to measure myself based on my own improvements and achievements, and not on all those speedy guys and gals. Let them be the inspirations that they are and try to remember that it is not them you are competing against.
Any other questions? I’m fairly new at this whole running thing, so “the beginning” is still fresh in my mind.
It's definitely a fact that you will run faster when you lose weight. I believe this is most of the reason I have improved so much this year. I have a website saved at home with a calculator that will tell you how much faster you can expect to run any given distance based on a certain number of pounds lost. I'll try to remember to send it to you tonight! Pretty interesting… and it has proven true for me so far, give or take.
Great post, Kerrie, tons of great information. I started reading your blog from the beginning yesterday and it's great to see your progress, I can't believe you started in last summers heatwave!My first 5k race I ran in 40 minutes on January 31, on March 28th I ran the same course in 34 minutes, I also lost about 8 pounds in that time. I have decided I am content with being slow as long as I get out there and do it, speed will come with time.I probably could use more calories the days of my longer runs but I usually get them the next day as that is when I actually get hungry 😛
I am faster now that I am 16 pounds lighter since last season. I really think it makes a difference. I use Livestrong's Daily plate to track my calories and exercises. Its been a fantastic way to stay accountable!
Great post! I loved reading about your progress. That's insane you ran your first half marathon 3 months after you started! I've been running for about 6 months now and I can't imagine doing one, and I've been upping my mileage as much as my body will let me 🙁 Great job!
Thanks for this Kerrie…
I *love* your last line! It's so easy to try to compare myself to all the awesome bloggers that I follow/lurk – yourself included. 🙂 I'll definitely have to remember to gain wisdom from everyone else, but not to forget the reasons why I'm running. Thanks! ps – You just might find yourself quoted the next time I post.
Thanks Kerri for answering my question. And that is a GREAT article from running dude. I think I may have to start tracking like this.
One word of caution – be careful on losing weight and marathon training. You're running a lot of miles and putting your body under a lot of stress. If you cut back too much, your calorie deficit will end up causing a bunch on unwanted side effects – such as lean muscle loss.And hear hear! “It’s really not that important how fast you are going, especially at the beginning. What is important is that you DO NOT quit.” I'm writing that one down or use later on! Great way to cap that discussion!
oooh…pick me! pick me! Favorite running gear for hot weather.
So glad you're liking My Fitness Pal and thanks for the shoutout! I've been slacking with keeping track but I'm reading Intuitive Eating and it has really helped some of the issues I deal with on a daily basis. Everytime I read about your journey from the start until now, I'm so proud of you! Takes a lot to start working out after an injury and years of not exercising.