We’ve all heard it at one time or another: running is free. All it takes is you, the will to move, and the pavement.
Well…inspirational as that might sound, whoever told you that has never been a runner. Running is not free. It IS true that running could be cheaper than a gym membership. Or it couldn’t be cheaper. It depends on what kind of accessories you purchase. Shoes, clothes, watches (oh the Garmin), gloves, hats, compression sleeves, race entry fees–it all adds up.
When you are training for a half-marathon, you will push yourself physically and mentally. You will grow every single day in self-confidence and strength. But since the training involves racking up a lot of miles on the pavement, you can expect that there will be some wear and tear on your body during the process. And to help minimize that wear and tear, there are some things you will need to purchase.
Hence my statement: running is not free. It is you and the pavement…and a few other things that help to keep you going. ESPECIALLY if you’re new to running. But to get you started, here are five things I don’t think you should try to do without.
1. Purchase a good pair of shoes
This one may seem somewhat obvious, because who can run without tennis shoes? But this is exactly the point I’m trying to make. You don’t want to run with tennis shoes; you want to run with running shoes. And you DEFINITELY want to run 13 miles with a GOOD pair of running shoes.
Without a good pair of shoes, you will not succeed. Or at least, you will not succeed without a great deal of pain. Find a specialty running store that has a gait analysis program to recommend the best pair of shoes for you. Your shoes will not be cheap, but they will be worth it. The wrong pair of shoes throws your lower body out of alignment, which in turn equals pain. Especially with a lot of repetition. And if you’re training for a half marathon, you’re going to have a lot of repetition.
2. Purchase a good foam roller
What is a foam roller, you may ask. It’s a firm, log-shaped device used to work soreness out of muscles. When used properly, it can increase circulation and range of motion in your legs before and after a run. If you’re new to the tortuous world of foam rolling, check out this instructional video on how to use one here.
I have nicknamed my foam roller the Spawn of Satan, and I have a love-hate relationship with that thing. Love, because the foam roller honestly gives my legs a more thorough massage than any person ever has. Hate, because that thing hurts. I mean, it takes mental strength to use one at first, because you know when it hits your IT band, you’re going to feel it. But without the foam roller using my own body weight to massage tight muscles, I don’t know how I would have continued training. And I did find that the more I used it, the less painful it was.
3. Find a good chiropractor
I found that once I reached a certain level with my running distances, I needed a good chiropractor to keep my body in proper alignment. My SI (sacroiliac) joint has a tendency to lock up, which ends up making one of my legs slightly longer than the other. I began to have a lot of muscles flare up in pain as a result of my pelvis not moving properly while running. So…the chiropractor became my best friend after I reached mile eight in the training regimen.
4. Find a good yoga class
Yoga strengthens key core muscles that are crucial to prevent injury in long distance running. When you have just run eight miles, your body is tired. And when your body is tired, your core muscles are keeping everything in proper alignment while you continue running.
I found that beginning yoga helped me tremendously in stretching out tight muscles. Some of these muscles I had NO IDEA how to stretch! Or at least, I didn’t know how to stretch them effectively.
Most people think of fitness as pure strengthening. And it is true–everyone wants to be stronger. But having long muscles helps them to work more effectively. Think of stretching as giving the muscle more room to work. And it helps to prevent injury from overly tight muscles tearing in the muscle belly or at insertion points. So yoga is a win-win. It strengthens and stretches at the same time, while allowing your mind to rest.
5. Keep your freezer stocked with ice
It’s a good idea to take the occasional ice bath after a long run. Yeah, I said it. Ice bath. It’s not pretty. It’s not fun. But the ice helps to minimize the inflammation and lactic acid buildup.
Some people swear by a hot epsom salt bath. And I’m not gonna lie–it feels awesome to sink down in that hot water after a long run. You’ll see epsom salt advice abound everywhere on the internet, while some dispute its effectiveness. Some people get really heated about this stuff (hot bath = heated. Lame. I know). If you’re interested, you can check out the controversy here. Seriously–read the article to understand the debate, but read the comments for the entertainment value. And grab some popcorn–it’s good.
But back to the ice. You can imagine that you would have some pain as a result of pounding the pavement over and over on a long run. These types of repeated use injuries cause inflammation. Ice is known to decrease inflammation, while heat increases inflammation. So it seems to me that an ice bath, which REDUCES inflammation, would be a more effective strategy. Even if it IS uncomfortable.
But I’ll let you make that decision for yourself. The epsom salt bath does feel pretty awesome.
At the very minimum, you will need all that ice for ice packs when you get some type of injury. It is very common for new runners to experience shin splints. You should also watch for slight swelling in the ankles or knees.
My picks to manage wear and tear on your body
My shoes. I run in the Brooks Ravenna 7s to help stabilize over-pronation of my foot. This particular bad habit shows up after I’ve been running for a bit, but my Rav 7s help to make it all better for me.
Each foot is different, and it’s crucial that you get fitted for YOUR best running shoe.
My foam roller. This thing is either a miracle worker or a device of torture–right now I’m not sure which. What I do know is that if I try to go too long without utilizing it, I get all sorts of flare ups with sore muscles or joints. Aside from great running shoes, it’s my #1 pick for necessities when training for long distances.
My chiropractor. The chiropractors here are amazing. And prices are reasonable. For $79 a month, I get 4 visits any time I want. Four! That price is well worth it for me–and helps to give me a much easier run.
My yoga classes. I attend yoga classes regularly at Summit Climbing Gym, or wherever a class happens to pop up in the community. So far I’ve tried Corepower yoga at NorthPark Center, and silent disco pop up yoga. The whole “pop up” thing is like yogis gathering for a flash mob session. The last one was in West Village, right in the heart of Dallas. And it’s all thanks to the Dallas Fitness Ambassadors.
Just so you know–out of the five things I have listed here, the two things I consider absolute necessities are the shoes and the foam roller. But the other three things are REALLY NICE. Just sayin’.
But I promise it’s worth it, despite all wear and tear on your body
After all that, you’re probably wondering why in the world ANYONE would choose to run. Runners even ask themselves that on occasion. The only thing I can tell you is that running, even when it hurts, makes you feel amazing. It makes me believe I can do anything, beat anything, or solve anything. Running is my therapy. Running is “me time.” I feel stronger and more capable every single day.
When I am running, I am somehow able to rise above any problems I have in my life. I can separate myself from those problems and put them back into perspective–because when I am running, the biggest problem I have is putting one foot in front of the other.
*LOOK FOR THE REST OF THE RACING NEWBIE’S COMPLETE GUIDE TO A HALF-MARATHONSERIES:
(4) Newbie Training For A Half-Marathon: Finding Your Tribe
(5) Newbie Training For A Half-Marathon: Preparing For The Final Week
(6) Newbie Training For A Half-Marathon: Rock n Roll Race Recap