Average Jane Runs

I'm just like you. And that's okay!

Did You Ever Know That You’re My Hero?

The St. Jude Marathon AJHeroes Giveaway is HERE!!!

1. What is this giveaway about, AJ?

This giveaway is about community. One of the greatest things about my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee is its strong and unfailing sense of community. When there is a need, we rally around our own until that need is met. We’re family.

I have never been more proud of my city than when I ran the St. Jude Memphis Half Marathon in 2006. The support of my fellow Memphians – the St. Jude families and survivors, the people out on their lawns along the course, and even people stuck in traffic because of the race detours – warmed my heart more than I can say.

This year I’m running the full marathon as a “Hero” – which means I’ve pledged to raise at least $500 for St. Jude. This is where the giveaway (and community) comes in.

Initially I set out to raise money on my own. Then I thought about the running community and how it really reminds me of my hometown. Runners also have a strong bond, even online. We lift each other up, we help whenever we can…we’re family! Why do it on my own when we can do so much more together?

2. How do I help?

You can help in a few ways:

  • Click here and make a donation to the AJR St. Jude Marathon fundraising page.
  • Spread the word!

3. I’m confused. What makes this a giveaway?

I’m so glad you asked!

What makes this a giveaway is that I have SO MUCH GEAR TO GIVE AWAY and by helping raise money for the kids of St. Jude, you will be entering a drawing to win one of 25 prizes! Yes, you read that right. There will be 25 winners!

So here’s the part you’ve been waiting for:

GRAND PRIZE

The 1st name drawn will win a pair of Altra Zero Drop™ shoes!

2ND-6TH PRIZES

The next 5 names drawn will receive 40% off their next Altra Zero Drop™ order!

7TH PRIZE

The 7th name drawn will win a Tommie Copper compression shirt AND a pair of Tommie Copper calf sleeves!

8TH PRIZE

The 8th name drawn will win an Enell Sports Bra (unless you're a dude, in which case you will automatically win the next prize)!

9TH PRIZE

The 9th name drawn will win an Avila Hydrapak!

10TH PRIZE

The 10th name drawn will win a $35 Road ID Gift Card!

11TH PRIZE

The 11th name drawn will win a pair of Hex Photopolar Sunglasses!

12TH PRIZE

The 12th name drawn will win a GU Sampler Pack!

(Lucky!) 13TH PRIZE

The 13th name drawn will win a 24-serving pack of Achiva Native Energy Chai Tea Mix!

14TH-15TH PRIZES

The 14th and 15th names drawn will win a 4-Pack of nuun!

16TH-25TH PRIZES

AJR Swag Bags!

I will provide more details and photos soon, but until then here’s some of the cool stuff that the last ten names drawn will find in their bags:

4. Okay, so how do I enter the giveaway drawing?

I aim to make this A.) the most fulfilling blog giveaway you’ve ever entered and B.) the easiest blog giveaway you’ve ever entered. Below are the steps to assure your greatest chances of winning:

  1. Donate to the AJR St. Jude Marathon fundraising page and enter AJHERO as a personal message. This will qualify you for the drawing* and give you five starter entries. The amount donated is in no way connected with your chances of winning. I don’t care if you give $1 or $100. Give what you can!
  2. Check back here for periodic polls, quizzes, and activities that will be worth more entries in the drawing. I will be announcing these on Twitter and Facebook, so if you’re not following AJR yet, now would be a good time!

*You MUST donate to enter.

And THAT’S IT! See, told ya it was easy!

Winners will be chosen on December 1, 2011 – that means you have three whole months to rack up the entries!

I will be providing more information about the sponsoring companies and detailing prizes more over the weekend so stay tuned for more info on all the gear! A HUGE THANK YOU to all who have generously donated to this giveaway and in turn to the kids of St. Jude. It means more than I could ever express.

So help me prove my theory about the running community…

There is need, let’s meet it!

 

There are a few issues with links and photos on this page that should be corrected soon! Links and photos should be working now – please let me know if you have any issues!

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Runner Mamas Part 1 of 2: Running While Pregnant

I knew from the moment I got the positive reading on the (6) pregnancy test(s) that I was not going to be the gal running a marathon while 9 months pregnant. I did, however, picture myself running at least until I had too much belly to be comfortable. I even asked my ob/gyn what she thought about it. She told me that I could run the same as I always had but that most ladies stopped around 25-30 weeks because of the Belly of Doom™. Okay maybe she didn’t exactly say “Belly of Doom” but that’s what I heard.

So I had grand plans of running my way through the majority of my pregnancy. I imagined I would be that amazingly fit runner mama-to-be with the adorable maternity tops accentuating my bump, a happy grin on my face because running made me feel oh so energized…I would trot down the road as people smiled and waved, encouraging me in my amazingly fit runner mama-to-be-ness…

…and then I woke up to the First Trimester (of Doom).

“Woke up” is probably a poor choice of words. Even though I was upright and (mostly) functioning, there wasn’t a whole lot of being awake going on in the first three months of my pregnancy. Running most certainly did NOT make me feel oh so energized.

I ran on the treadmill a few times but decided after about 7 exhaustive weeks that running was not my pregnant exercise of choice. I was a full-time student and also working full-time with an hour commute in each direction. On top of that, being a narcoleptic with Pregnant Brain made even the simplest of tasks nearly insurmountable. Often I had trouble staying awake on the drive home. I was beginning to get anxious in addition to the fatigue. Something had to go. Not wanting to have a stressed-out pregnancy, I decided to drop the running. I knew I’d be able to pick it back up and it’d be waiting patiently when I did.

So the energized runner mama-to-be I was not. But I was okay with that. I’d been waiting a long time to start a family so I figured waiting a short while to run wouldn’t be so bad. I did a LOT of walking, yoga, and even some elliptical work (which earned me some interesting looks and comments toward the end of my pregnancy…what, I’m supposed to sit on my giant butt and eat bon bons for 2-3 more months?).

Pregnancy (and having a child, but that’s a different post) taught me that you have to take things as they come and adapt to what works best for you and yours. I chose not to run throughout my pregnancy but there are many women who absolutely can and do. Below are some ladies who made running while pregnant work for them.

One of my “Tweeple” (did I just type that?), Katie, is one of those amazingly fit runner mamas-to-be who has even continued racing while pregnant. She has also discovered a creative and fun way to get her speed back while removing the Belly of Doom™ stress from her body – the Alter-G Treadmill. The closest one of these to me is in Kentucky. I might have driven to Kentucky to have had this experience while pregnant. Read about Katie’s out-of-this-world run here: “I Ran on the Moon – My Anti-Gravity Running Experience”

Another of my “Tweeps” (I’m starting to annoy myself now…), Adrienne (who also prego-raced) maintains her smokin’ runner mama-to-be status by using the treadmill, taking it slow, and listening to her body. Even though she feels the frustration of not being able to run in quite the same way she used to, she has found a way to stick with it by making adjustments to her routine. What’s even more impressive is that she manages to find time for regular workouts in the midst of taking care of a lot of people. Here’s a glimpse into Adrienne’s busy life: “slow FAT pregnant RUNNER”

And finally, fellow “Twerson” (okay, now that’s just silly.) Stephanie has remained a svelte runner mama-to-be cruising through her second pregnancy with the wise acceptance of its physical limitations. Like Katie and Adrienne, Stephanie also laments losing her usual speed and distance but has welcomed the deceleration as definitely worth it for the end result. She notes that slowing down can often remind us why we’re out there to begin with – for the joy of the run. Stephanie explains what she’s learned from her growing belly in: “Things the Bump is Teaching me”

I didn’t run past the first few months of pregnancy but I did the best I felt I could do to remain fit and zen. Many women like Katie, Adrienne, and Stephanie are lucky enough to be able to keep running (even with the dreaded Belly of Doom™). They may not be able to go as fast or as far as they’d like – but they’re compromising and sacrificing as necessary to do what’s best to take care of themselves and their growing babies.

And that, my friends, is what being a good (runner) mama is all about.

Up Next: “Runner Mamas Part 2 of 2: Running After Pregnancy”

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How to Tell the Treadmill, “I’m just not that into you” – and Mean It.

I suppose I shouldn’t make it sound so final. Some things are worth keeping around just in case (you know, like skinny clothes and twist-ties). But for those of you who think, “I just can’t run outdoors like I can on the treadmill,” let me tell you how to, as Willy Wonka wisely worded, “strike that, reverse it.” Below are a few suggestions to help successfully transition from conveyor belt to asphalt (or grass…or dirt…).

1. Don’t Run with Music (at First)

This is a hot debate topic among runners. Many against the idea will argue that running with music takes away from the “purity” of the sport and hinders a runner’s ability to properly listen to their body. Proponents of running with music will argue that it decreases a runner’s perceived rate of exertion and boosts energy levels.

My opinion falls somewhere in the middle, but for the purpose of learning to run outdoors I would would more than strongly suggest leaving the mp3 player at home. Why? Because it does hinder your ability to effectively listen to your body if you’re not accustomed to doing it. And in order to find a comfortable, sustainable pace (which is what will ultimately help you run better outside), you need to be able to literally listen to yourself as you run.

No, you won’t be talking to yourself (unless you’re a distance runner, in which case talking to yourself is often a necessary tactic for survival). You will be listening to your breathing.

2. Regulate Your Breathing

This is one of the most difficult things to master in running but it is absolutely key to discovering your best pace. As in most exercise, you will want your breath to be smooth and even whether you’re shuffling along or giving it all you’ve got. One way to accomplish this is to associate your breathing pattern with your footfalls. For example, inhale for three steps and exhale for the following three steps. Repeating a pattern like this consistently throughout your run will help regulate your breathing and will allow your body to fall into a naturally comfortable pace.

The 3:3 ratio is my personal preference. You may find that a different breath-to-footfall combination works better for your stride rate. Below are some other ratios you might try:

  • 4:4 – inhale four steps, exhale four steps
  • 3:2 – inhale three steps, exhale two steps
  • 2:2 – inhale two steps, exhale two steps

Again, this isn’t an easy thing to do, so give yourself some time to find your prime breathing groove. The goal here is to get rid of all the huffing and puffing. It’s okay to be out of breath if you pushed it at the end of a long run or are doing some speedwork – but for your average run your breathing should allow you to hold a conversation.

3. Slow Down

Can’t seem to get rid of the ol’ huff-n-puff? Make it to the end of the block and crumple into a heap of heaving breathing? You need to slow down. This is possibly the #1 mistake runners make when hitting the pavement for the first time, particularly when switching from treadmill running.

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that most places you’ll run outside won’t have moving belts. Since the only things propelling you forward outdoors are your feet and legs, immediately going for the same pace outside as you run on the treadmill can leave you breathless (and not in the fun way). Starting out slower than you feel you need to go will allow your body to adjust to outdoor running and help you get past the end of the block with steady breath in your lungs. Though it may feel awkward at first, slowing down is the quickest way to learning your pace.

4. Learn Your Pace

I can’t tell you what pace is best for you. The treadmill can give you a general idea but in most cases will not reflect your best pace for running outside. The only way to learn your comfortable pace is by trial and error. You may find that it takes several tries to get into a pace that feels good. You might have to experiment with different breathing patterns, different running spots, and different distances. However you decide to tackle the task of learning your pace – be patient, be persistent, and don’t give up.

If you’re not up for much trial and error or you need a more structured method of finding the perfect pace, you can always try interval training.   

5. Run Intervals

Intervals are a great way to acclimate the body to outdoor running and to help discover what pace suits you. The idea is to alternate your pace in specific increments of distance or time.

One example of an interval training plan is the popular Couch-to-5K. The C25K plan uses run/walk intervals to help non-runners gradually work up to running 3.1 miles. I found that the program is also useful for learning to run outside.

The intervals look something like this (taken from C25K‘s week four):

  • Jog 1/4 mile (or 3 minutes)
  • Walk 1/8 mile (or 90 seconds)
  • Jog 1/2 mile (or 5 minutes)
  • Walk 1/4 mile (or 2-1/2 minutes)
  • Jog 1/4 mile (or 3 minutes)
  • Walk 1/8 mile (or 90 seconds)
  • Jog 1/2 mile (or 5 minutes)

As you can see, you have the option of choosing distance intervals or time intervals. It may take a few runs to decide which works best for you. When I began running, the time intervals helped me the most since they were easier for me to measure. However, once I was able to run for longer periods of time without walking I found I preferred distance intervals.

If you feel the C25K plan doesn’t suit your running abilities, you always have the option of creating your own intervals. For example, once I completed the C25K program I felt I needed more of a challenge. I began training using my own run/walk intervals of 15/2 (15 minutes running/2 minutes walking).

Whether you create your own intervals or use a plan like the C25K, interval training will build your stamina and cardiovascular health. These things will make running outside feel a lot more comfortable for you.

6. Get the Right Shoes (for You)

Finding the right shoes can make all the difference in the world for outdoor running. Since the impact is different outside – whether you’re running trails, grass, or pavement – you’ll likely feel the wrath of an ill-suited pair of shoes more than you would on a treadmill.

Like most other things in life and running, shoes are a personal choice. A great place to start is by visiting your local running specialty shop* (NOT just a store that sells athletic shoes). The salespeople at the specialty shop should be able to watch you run and suggest shoes that are appropriate for your build and gait. It’s also important to chat about your current running and your future plans so that they can help you find the best shoe for what you want to do.

Some questions they might ask (or ones you should discuss if they don’t):

  • How far do you run weekly?
  • Where do you usually run and on what type(s) of surface(s)?
  • How much do you weigh?
  • Are you planning on increasing your weekly mileage?
  • Do you race?
  • What are your running goals?

Don’t be afraid to voice any other concerns you may have and DON’T feel pressured to buy a shoe that you don’t feel is 100% for you. Ask to try different styles of shoes that may not have been suggested. Take notes (no, really). Go home and weigh all of your options. If you do purchase a pair of shoes in-store, be sure to ask about their return policy.

Once you find the right shoes for you, you’ll be amazed at how much more pleasant outdoor running becomes. Fantastic shoes are often the final key to running comfortably outside.

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These are only a few ways to help you transition from the treadmill to the Great Outdoors. I hope they will at least give you a starting point to get you feeling good running outside. If you’re like me, you’ll find that once you successfully switch you won’t ever look at the treadmill the same again. In my case, I don’t like to look at the treadmill at all (and will often refer to it as the “dreadmill”).

Don’t get me wrong, I definitely like to keep the dread…er…treadmill on hand for things like nasty weather and after-dark PM runs. But you better believe if there’s no lightning or ridiculously high heat/humidity involved I’m running outside.

I just can’t run on the treadmill like I can outdoors.

Thanks to AJRunner Brandi for the inspiration! I hope this helped!

*The Runner’s World website has a Specialty Running Store Finder that can be helpful in locating a shop in your area (though keep in mind some of the listings are “Big Box” stores that may or may not provide as thorough a fitting as a smaller shop).

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Greetings Fellow Mortals!

Welcome to Average Jane Runs!

Firstly, I would like to thank all those following AJR on Twitter and Facebook who have been patiently awaiting this blog launch. My web design skills are even slower than my race pace, so thanks for hanging in there!

Secondly, whether you’re already familiar with AJR or you’ve just now stumbled across the site – I hope you enjoy your visit! Feel free to look around, ask questions, leave comments, give feedback, and share stories. I’m always happy to meet a fellow runner…and if you’re not a runner, I’m always glad to enlist new recruits! Jokes aside, there really is no pressure here – though I do sincerely hope to inspire and encourage everyday folks like myself.

As the title suggests, I am absolutely an Average Jane. I’m a wife, a mother, a student, an aspiring teacher, and a (sometimes painfully slow) runner. I have completed many races but I have no visions of running marathons in Boston or New York. I will never be an elite runner and I’m perfectly okay with that. My running goals are simple – to stay healthy, active, and fit (okay, and to score a personal record or two)!

I laugh at myself quite a bit and I hope you will, too. My running journey is often solo – it helps to be able to share the funny (and not so funny) moments with other folks out there who are just as average as me.

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