From Office Potato to Runner, Part 1

Welcome to post one of a multi-part series in which I share my experience with running as part of my journey from couch to triathlete. Running is the hardest triathlon sport in terms of effort (at least for me) and I certainly shed some sweat, pain, and even tears getting to where I am today.

It all began in November of 2007 and I look forward to many more years of progress.  Even though I feel great and am running faster than I have ever run in my entire life, there is something even more satisfying about seeing it visually and sharing it with those around me.

So, how far have I come with my running?  Pretty darn far! Here is a summary:

1. Ugh! I hate running!

In the beginning, I ran on the treadmill at the gym.  I remember struggling through 0.10 mile and was ecstatic when I hit my first quarter mile, non-stop!   Running just was not something the old body would do willingly. Not only couldn’t I swim, but I couldn’t run either.

2. Stretching, Foam Rolling & Massaging

With the immense pain of 30 year old muscles that just didn’t take to running, my trainer put together a great warmup routine, convinced me to buy a foam roller, and gave me a handball to massage the problematic muscles with.   A morning and evening routine of stretching, rolling, and massaging was my savior.  Making it to that first mile, non-stop on the treadmill was unforgettable.

3. Graduation to the Pavement Jungle

After getting the confidence of finishing my first interval mile on the treadmill and reading some articles on the cons of treadmill workouts, I hit the pavement.  Boy, was this was a shocker.  The first entry in my workout log (started just after the first outdoor run) was a discussion of “Why Running Outside Sucks.”  The pain was toying with my head, discouraging me.  The calves just didn’t like it.  But I persevered and started to learn that running was as much psychological as physical.

4. It Is More Than Working Out

The quarter mile run outdoor workouts that my trainer introduced me to sucked as I had a hard time catching my breathe and keeping my body moving.  While I made great strides in my triathlon training, I hit a huge brick wall.  After discussing it with the trainer, I suddenly realized that nutrition was still not where is needed to be.  You see, proper nutrition is not just “cutting back” on fast food and eating two brownies versus four.  A serious nutritional rework was in order… we’ll say it took baby steps.  Proper fuel makes all the difference in the world!  Check out my book page for some resources on nutrition and fueling for triathletes.

5. Inconsistent Brute Force

Building distance and speed was next.  Now that I was slowly overcoming leg pain, it was time to start building up my endurance.  My trainer motivated me to the 3-mile mark with a sushi dinner and I eventually got there through brute force.  However, each run was inconsistent in terms of effort, “hacking” my way along with an inconsistent walk/run interval. I finished my first 5k competition during this phase and my first triathlon, the Ventura Triathlon.

6. Putting the Consistent Spring in my Step

Running fast and efficiently takes practice.  After I expressed continued frustration with my progress, my trainer gave me some pointers on running. “Light on my feet” and pretend you are on the bike was his message.  I was amazed at the results.  I was running sub 10-minute miles instantly. I learned two important variables from this session, 1) form is everything and 2) running with someone helps motivate you.  In sub-sequent runs, with the heart rate and pace consistent, I actually started enjoying the sport of running.

7. Bricks Are For More Than Houses

Preceding a run by a swim and bike, really diminished my ability to run.  Bricks are a workout that combines two or more sports, like cycling and running.  While I completed a number of them prior to the Ventura and Santa Barbara Triathlons, it can take years for the body to compensate for a cycle to run transition.  In addition, I continue to struggle because I have not yet found that elusive training partner.  Even still, I am looking toward some intense brick workouts in 2010 and finding that elusive training partner.


Aric's Three Runs, So Far
Aric's Three Runs, So Far

There you have it, my running history, in brief, since November 2007.   While I am quite pleased with the progress, I still have a long way to go to consistently break through the 10-minute pace barrier and to break through it over distances greater than one mile.   To think that I can now go out and run without the overwhelming pain in my legs that prevented me from reaching a quarter mile on the treadmill, I firmly believe that the sky is the limit for what is to come!

Please check for part 2, which I go over the data behind the discussion above.

(update 09/13/09 22:43 – Added link to the book page)