Shopping for Running Shoes, Part 2

By Megan Cox

The clock was ticking. I’ll finally see my doctor this week, who I suspect will give me the thumbs up for physical activity (and for this girl, that means training for my first race in four years!). However, several days after my baby pool adventure at the sporting goods store, I was still without a pair of running shoes.

It was time to get down to business.

By the time I set foot in the OK Runner store in Edmond, Oklahoma, I was a sweaty mess. No, this wasn’t because of some intense, booty-kicking workout. Remember, as a mommy of a newborn, I can’t do that quite yet. Instead, I was sweating from the fifteen steps it took me to get from my mini-van into the store with a baby carrier (plus nine-pound infant), two-year old (who for some reason is always screaming “cookie” every time we enter a store, which may have something to do with the fact that they give free ones at Wal-Mart and Target), and a very tired but longsuffering “Mimi,” who came along, against her better judgment, to babysit while I got fitted for shoes.

I’ll give Tim Johnson, one of the store owners, credit for not hightailing it out of there. I would have run away screaming myself if these were not, in fact, my own children.

Anyway, I’ll also give him credit for getting me fitted quickly, while my two-year old did laps around the store and laughed at Mimi, who was trying to keep her from swallowing a marker. I was in my own world of bliss, dreaming of two hours (plus or minus) of child-free time at a certain half marathon in December. See what kids do to you? They make half marathons look like a vacation.

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How Hard Can Shopping for Running Shoes Be?

By Megan Cox

Well, my original plan for the very exciting fitting of my new running shoes (as you probably know by now, this mama of two little ones is getting herself back in shape for a December half marathon) was to take one kid with me and leave one with hubby. Unfortunately, Daddy had to work on the day I planned to go, and that left me with one of two options—take both kids or wait for another day.

Hey, I’m up to a challenge, right?

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Reader Poll: What Info Are You Looking for on Race Day?

If you’re like me, your mobile phone is with you morning, noon and night, 24/7. I carry mine with me virtually everywhere I go, which means I take it with me and carry it during races, to take photos and stay in touch with family and friends before and after a race.

(And even sometimes during a race — a couple of years ago, I texted back and forth with my sister while running the Golden Gate Bridge at the San Francisco Half Marathon. She’d sent me a photo of a kitten they’d just adopted. So I had to respond, right? ;) )

Increasingly, I’ve noticed that the number of people accessing the main site goes way up on the weekends, when races almost always take place. My question is, I think I know what you’re looking for, but I wanted to ask to get your feedback.

What info do you want to find most when you’re at a race? Starting times, course maps, results? Or all of those? I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments section below.

Sleep? It’s a Runner’s Best Friend

By Megan Cox

Okay, so if you’ve done the newborn thing, you know where I’m coming from here. If you haven’t, count your lucky stars, sheep, or whatever, and enjoy your eight hours (give or take) of rest.

I’m not in bad shape. Not really. Two years ago, when I had my daughter, the hospital sent me home without much help (as the saying goes, “Up a creek without a paddle.”). My daughter was still up every two hours at five weeks, and I became obsessed with sleep. My research paid off. At 10 weeks of age, she was sleeping eight or more hours a night, and by six months she was sleeping over 11 hours without a fight, which she continues to do to this day.

This time around, with baby two, I discovered the book On Becoming Baby Wise. My four-week-old son, lovingly dubbed “Number Two,” now wakes up only once or twice a night to “sleep eat” and goes right back down. If only I could shut off and on so easily.

As I contemplate my training schedule for my half marathon in December, I’m wondering how my sleep deficit will affect my endurance. Remember, this is my first race after having babies. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Number Two will be sleeping through the night by mid-July. But how much should I worry about getting that oh-so-impossible eight hours of rest?

According to the National Sleep Foundation, “Though diet and exercise are critical components of healthy lifestyles, it’s also important to remember that sleep is inherently linked with how we eat (and how much), how we exercise (and whether or not we lose weight), and how we function on a daily basis.” This organization further recommends exercising late in the afternoon, but at least three hours before bedtime.

That’s a nice idea, but I’m not sure they figured in the toddler/new baby variable. Actually, I think most people, with kids or not, just have to get exercise in when they can.

But regardless, I’m going to make getting my zzz’s a top priority. An article in Running TImes has some great information and tips, and it underlines something that all my baby sleep books emphasize — routine is key to a good night’s sleep (read it here).

My sleeping schedule will never be perfect. My kids have put an end to that. But I do know that adequate rest is just as important to my health as diet and exercise.

So, if you have kiddos, do the best you can. Turn off the television and stop facebooking everyone you ever knew after the kids go to bed. And if you don’t have kids, then definitely no whining!

How’s that for some parenting?

This is a guest post by Megan Cox, an Oklahoma City-based novelist, writer and contributing blogger for HalfMarathons.Net. Learn more about Megan at her website.

Is There Really Just One Best Way to Run?

There’s a great post today on The New Yorker magazine’s blog about a pair of running books, one that’s been out for a while and another that’s new — 14 Minutes, by the legendary runner and running coach Alberto Salazar.

The book traces the arc of Salazar’s life from his legendary battle with Dick Beardsley at the 1982 Boston Marathon (which Salazar won in dramatic fashion) to his later disillusionment with running and training, and an addiction to painkillers that lasted for years.

Salazar was able to kick his addiction, however, and become one of the most highly-regarded running coaches in the sport. What really interested me, though, is how he’s drawn to finding and perfecting the best running form — how you move your body, where your feet land, what’s the most efficient way to do those things?

“There has to be one best way of running. It’s got to be like a law of physics. And if you deviate too much from that — the way I did in my career — it can be a big handicap… You show me someone with bad form, and I’ll show you someone who’s going to have a lot of injuries and a short career.”

Chris McDougall, who’s also profiled in the piece and is best known for his 2009 book Born to Run, might argue that the shoes we wear prevent us from achieving the right form for running. The running shoe industry is one of his chief targets, and he basically is convinced that if we all ran barefoot (or something close to that) then we’d all see many fewer injuries and pain from running.

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Finding the Perfect Training Plan

By Megan Cox

So, as I strengthen my protesting legs over the next few weeks and wait for the doctor to give me the thumbs up to start really working out again, I’ll be planning my next move toward my December race. Many half-marathon training programs are three to four months long; therefore, I can definitely use June and July to get into 5K and then 10K shape.

My next step, then, is finding a good 5k training program, but this mama of two little ones has some strict requirements. First of all, I don’t want to dedicate more than three, maybe four days a week to training. Pre-baby, this would have been crazy talk for me, a DINK (dual-income-no-kids) professional woman whose hobby was basically being top-of-the-line fit and doing whatever the heck I wanted in my non-work hours. Now I don’t know the meaning of “non-work” hours!

Long-story short, I need a program that’s easy on the time commitment and won’t take more than four to five weeks. Because then, let’s face it, I’ll have to get moving onto training the next distance.

So, after some good old fashioned Internet surfing, I came up with these three abbreviated 5k training programs:
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Hello, Legs! Part 2: The Warm-Up

By Megan Cox

As mentioned in my previous post, my personal trainer friend, Katie Howard of You and Improved Fitness in Edmond, Oklahoma, gave me a “wake up your legs” workout that I can start using before my feet hit the pavement.

Because I’m not really in the position to go to the gym yet, what with a newborn and everything, Katie’s recommendation included exercises I can do from the comfort of my home.

Basically, I started with the recommended five minute warm-up—some running in place—that I’ll admit left this tired body feeling a little breathless! But at least it woke all those slumbering leg muscles! Then I proceeded to do one set of each of the following exercises, 10 repetitions for each (Katie’s recommendation was 8 to 12 repetitions, so I split the difference).

  • Knee Extensions. Using a chair, sit up straight with your feet hip distance apart. Raise one foot so that the leg is parallel to the floor. Then lower that foot back to the starting position. Repeat 8 to 12 times and then repeat on the other side.
  • Squats. The biggest safety issue to remember with squat is to make sure your knees to do not extend over your toes. Squat as if you’re sitting back into a chair.
  • Lunges (both forward and sideways). Like the squat, make sure you knees do not extend over your toes.
  • Heel Raises. Raise up on your toes as high as you can.

After I tried these, I’ll admit that the legs protested after their long vacation, but if anything, using my muscles felt good—a tiny step toward where I’m going. I finished with stretching, as recommended, and waited to see what price I would pay the next day.

The good news is that, on day two, the muscles feel used but not abused, and that’s a good thing when you’re chasing after a two-year-old with a newborn in your arms!

Next up—shoe shopping!

This is a guest post by Megan Cox, an Oklahoma City-based novelist, writer and contributing blogger for HalfMarathons.Net. Learn more about Megan at her website.

Hello Legs! Back to Basic Training

By Megan Cox

So I’m watching the OKC Memorial Marathon last week and getting really psyched about racing again when I realize one major thing: I’ve got a lot of work to do.

I haven’t done a serious, feel-the-quads-burn leg conditioning workout for a while. When I say a while, I mean about nine months of pregnancy, seven months of I’m-trying-to-get-pregnant-so-I’m-not-going-to-push-it, nine months of breastfeeding baby number one, and nine months of pregnancy before that. So, that comes to what? Two years and nine months of vacation for my leg muscles. Sheesh!

Don’t get me wrong—I ran shorter distances (3 to 4 miles), sweated on the elliptical, and shook my booty in some Zumba classes up through the third month of my second pregnancy (you keeping all this straight?), but I haven’t completed an honest-to-goodness conditioning workout in quite some time. Because of this, I figured I’d better talk to one of my personal trainer friends, Katie Howard of You and Improved Fitness in Edmond, Oklahoma, for some tips.

First off, she gave me some really sound advice about easing back into things. This is probably a good thing, as I definitely have a rep for taking the hard road, which can easily end in a physical, mental, and/or emotional implosion. My family, especially my husband, would prefer not to deal with the imploding me, so I’ll take Katie seriously.

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