Dominating Athlete of the Week - Erika!
True confession time! I found Erika on twitter. I loved her inspiring posts, and she was awesome enough to be my Dominating Athlete of the week!!!
Jumping right in -
What started your love (or hate) affair with running? I was tricked into a 5K by my sister on Thanksgiving Day of 2011. I had never run before in my life - I was an athlete as a child and even through high school (I was a two-sport athlete in high school) but running was never something I did. I walked that first race and thought, inwardly, not admitting it to my sister, that it wasn't so bad. After I'd already lost about 50 lbs by diet changes alone, my weight loss stalled. I knew I had to add exercise but I have always had an intense aversion to exercise. The reason I played sports is because they were fun. I never considered exercise to be "fun." However, I'd just started graduate school at Northwestern University, and I was hearing ads on the radio for the inaugural Big Ten Network Big 10K race, which also had a 5K race available.
I thought it might be a fun school spirit event, so as a new Northwestern student, I signed up for the 5K, figuring I'd jog as much of it as I could. I finished in 41:09. I had such a runner's high after and felt so great (mentally) that I bought a Couch to 5K app the next day and started running. I was living in a difficult home situation at the time and I found running to be the best productive and relieving outlet for my anger and stress. I always felt so much better after a run, so I kept doing it. I eventually progressed to 10Ks and then 15Ks, and I'm now training for a half marathon. You lost 90 lbs in 17 months. Of course it's different for every person. When doing Couch to 5K, I really broke the rules and ran about 6 days a week, skipping the recommended rest days. I wouldn't recommend that - I've experienced some injuries already in my short running career so rest days are incredibly important to let your muscles heal. If someone is a brand new runner, I highly recommend using some kind of Couch to 5K program to get yourself slowly accustomed to running. If you do too much too soon, you could really hurt yourself, and you also won't have any fun, which is of course what this is all about!
Any tips for those of us looking to lose weight while running? Know that if you're already losing weight and add in running, guess what, you're going to have to add a few calories to your daily budget. You need to be able to fuel your running! However, when you're running three or fewer miles a day, it doesn't have to be like these Olympic swimmers that eat like 15,000 calories a day! I added in a low-calorie protein or fiber bar pre-run and a Muscle Milk Light post-run and found that to work for me. Use a wonderful tool like SparkPeople.com to track calories and exercise and customize a calorie budget based on your activity level. SparkPeople has been an invaluable resource for me. Sign up for races! There's nothing better for motivation than competition. And read read read! I have become a mass devourer of Runner's World and Women's Running magazines. Find good resources for guidance and training plans. Running is phenomenal exercise. It really works your entire body and all your muscle groups. It's such insane cardio that my doctor reports my resting heart rate to now be 44 (what most medical experts would consider "elite athlete" status). Running is so worth it and I'm convinced it is the best and cheapest way to condition your entire body!
What is the biggest obstacle you have overcome in your running? I have gone through periods where I have just fallen out of love with running. Everyone goes through it - if you open an issue of Running World, you'll see an article, a letter to the editor, a feature on how people can get their "spark" back again. I've gone through several of those, but just one really fantastic training run can bring it all back. My other major obstacle has been injuries. Since running, I've experienced a few types of tendonitis, pulled hamstrings, shin splints, tarsal tunning syndrome, and more. I'm not a patient person and tended to rush back from injury and end up extending my injury. It is so hard to exercise restraint and take a rest when you're injured. Believe me, I know! I became addicted to the runner's high, addicted to the numbers on the scale going down, so I considered a rest day a setback. Don't do this! Take rest days! There is always time to run.
Music - do you run with it or without it? I absolutely run with music. I have a very short attention span and I tend to think far too much when I do not have music to distract me. If I don't have music, I'm thinking about, "This is kind of boring. My knee hurts. My hip hurts. I'm tired. Is my breathing becoming labored?" Music helps me disconnect and gives me something to focus on if I'm hurting. There is definitely a time and place for music (don't run distracted when it's dark out!) but personally, I do need it, especially during those long runs. My "push" song is "How You Like Me Now?" by the Heavy. I hear that horn intro and I just start sprinting! I'm also very partial to "Grounds for Divorce" by Elbow.
ever ran, not to mention my first 15K. With a lot of Biggest Loser contestants there, it was so amazingly inspirational and motivational. I can't explain it in short enough terms - for further details, I have a full blog post on it!
Race I'd like to forget: Hot Chocolate 5K. It was a total disaster. There were wayyy too many people and though it was the first time they organized it in Chicago, overall it was a mess. I was so frustrated by the end that a race marshal near the end asked if I was OK because I was huffing about having to dodge all the walkers. That was the problem. Everyone in my corral and corrals ahead of me went to the race to walk. I did not. It was a huge challenge dodging people the whole time, and the packet pickup and post-race events were a wreck additionally. It's a race I won't be doing again. I much prefer small entries from now on!
Best piece of running gear ever: Last year for Christmas, my sister's long-term boyfriend, who spent the holiday with us, gave me a very nice Polar heart rate monitor. It comes with a "training computer" (a watch that stores all the heart rate data). It's incredibly helpful now training for a half marathon to be able to keep track of my heart rate and make sure I'm not overexerting on certain distances. It helps me to determine a reasonable pace for an optimal heart rate. It's a very useful tool, especially when you are training for a race. Even when I'm not actually wearing the heart rate sensor, I do wear the training computer watch while running so I can keep track of the time while running.
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