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Running on Empty – What I’ve Learned from beginning to Run

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Run Watch

I did my first 10K yesterday. It was on the treadmill, and it took me forever, and I also had to walk a bit of it, but I ran solid for 90 minutes before I had to walk for a little bit, then I ran to the end.

Yes, I’m slow. It’s more of a jog than a run at my speed, but I’ve got two feet off the ground for a long spell of time. Maybe I’ll speed up, and maybe I’ll always be slow, but at my age, I’m just amazed that my body is coping with all of this.

Less than a year ago, I found myself out of breath climbing two flights of stairs. That was incredibly devastating as I used to be fit. Not 10K running fit, but I could have walked for hours on end at a speedy pace. Having a young dog helped then. Over the years, diabetes and the under active thyroid, along with my fibro which affected my feet and plantar fascitis in both of them as well, I ended up as a bit of a wreck.

I was heading towards a big birthday, and all I could see was that my life was headed towards a spiral of weight, being sick, tired and unfit. I struggled to stay awake after eating anything, but the diabetes was a bit out of control and my blood sugars were high. Once I added thyroxine, I seemed to find the energy I’d been lacking for a long time.

I started walking to get my blood sugar down and one day, on a whim, I started the couch to 5K routine. It was a killer. I barely made the first day of running for one minute at a time, interspersed with bouts of walking.

I now know that slowing to a walk is ok. If it needs to be done, there’s no shame in it. Several times, I almost gave up. Especially on the longer runs of 20 minutes plus. It seems incredible to me, that now, I think of 30 minutes of constant running as an easy run. This is me talking. 30 minutes of running is easy – well apart from the first few minutes, which are always a killer, until I find my running legs and my calf muscles settle down to a rhythm.

Yesterday, I did my usual three or four weekly 5K. Then I decided to go for 6.4k, to make it a 4 mile run. At 6.4k, I still felt strong, so kept going until around 8k, where I had to take a bit of a breather for a few minutes, then I picked the pace back up, now determined to hit the 10k mark. Possibly stupid to go straight from 5k to a 10k, but that’s an exercise high for you. I ran the last 1.5k very slowly, slower than my starting off pace, but I did eventually hit the 10k, and slowed to a walk to cool down.

My back hurt….. My feet hurt….. But I did it…..

What I’ve Learned Over The Last Few Months of Running… My Tips for New Runners – those even newer than me, and I’m still new.

It’s ok to be slow.

Never compare myself to anyone else.  Other people don’t have my health issues, and what’s tough for me, could be easy for someone else.  If you sail past me while I jog on, then just give me a smile as I end up eating your dust.

Weight loss can slow up when you start running.

I’ve heard of other people who’ve lost a pile of weight when they start to run.  I’m told that some weight is fluid retention to repair the muscles that are stressed in some new runners.  I have metabolism issues, and for me, weight loss has slowed to a snail’s pace.  I am growing muscle in my legs, and although I fit into smaller clothes, my weight is not reducing at a rate to reflect that, but it’s ok to be heavier at a smaller size clothes.  It will sort itself out over time, as long as I stay in a calorie deficit.

Other runners can be as*es…

Most other runners are encouraging, helpful and understanding.  We can’t all be race winners, or even race finishers.   If we get up off our backsides and try, we are all life winners.  I think of
myself more as a jogger, but everyone seems to refer to running nowadays, and the NHS app says I’m a runner, so run/jog, it’s all getting two feet off the ground.  I’ve heard from other newbies who’ve had their speed dissed by experienced runners.  Honestly, don’t care about it.  We’re not all natural runners.  Sometimes, people who are, don’t understand how much work it is for the rest of us.

Protein is more important than I ever thought.

Learning to run while you’re in a calorie deficit isn’t simple.  When I started upping my time running, I was finding recovery tricky.  I felt fine after the run, but quickly crashed.  Some days, I needed two days rest between a run.  After a bit of reading, I realised that I was nowhere near meeting my daily protein needs.

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I needed to find a way to get more protein at lower calories, and got sick of things like eggs, so started looking at protein shakes.  I finally settled on myprotein, as it has 20g of protein in 25g of powder, which suits me fine and didn’t break the bank.

A recovery drink stops me wanting to go to sleep after a long run.

I’ve found my holy grail of recovery drinks.  Here’s my recipe for it.

  • 50g Frozen Raspberries
  • 50g Banana
  • 20g Myprotein Powder
  • 200ml Skimmed Milk

I blitz this in my Nutribullet for a few seconds, and I’m ready to go.  Sometimes, I replace some of the raspberries with frozen Mango or Strawberries.  I always use frozen fruit for this part, as I like the consistency and it’s easy to always have fruit in the freezer, ready to go.

It has around 220 Calories, with 25g Protein.

Running shoes are a must.

I’ve struggled with my feet throughout this process.  I tried cushioning, but those didn’t support my arches enough, although I’m told I’m a neutral runner.  Perhaps it was the plantar, but the neutral cushioned ones I had caused me problems with the ball of my feet and feeling my tendon move inside my arch.  At the moment, I’m back to my old Nike support ones, but I need more cushioning on the forefoot, so I have a new pair on order.  I don’t overpronate, so I don’t need high stability shoes, but I do need some support.

Doing some research into what shoes you need is very important.  Much more than I realised at the beginning of all this.  The right shoes help keep injury rates down.  My current Nike’s are fine for 5k, but I need more cushioning for longer distances.

Run Trainers

Don’t run in cotton joggers!

Honestly, really don’t, unless you’re in the early stages of the C25K.  I skint my knees with mine on a 5k.  I’ve got some silky trackie bums that slide over skin now, from Asda, and some others on order to try.

Enjoy it.

As hard as this sounds, it’s important to realise that exercise should be fun – eventually.  I really hated the first weeks, and I still dislike the first 5-10 minutes of a run, but once I’m past that, I now begin to enjoy it.  Who’d have thought I’d ever enjoy this…..

Music is Key.

I can speed up to some tracks, and others slow me down.  I’m making a playlist of the songs that help me to go a bit faster and keep my motivation high.  At around 7k yesterday, I got a little emotional, and almost cried.  Not from pain, but because the song lifted me and I felt invincible doing what I was doing.  I hope to keep doing this as long as I can, as I feel amazing after a run.

I don’t always enjoy every minute of a run, and some parts are difficult, but without the right music, I can’t cope.  I tried using the treadmill and watching the news, but found that too boring.  If my music is loud enough to stop me hearing my feet hit the ground, I’m happier.  When I can hear each step, it puts me right off and I almost crumble.  As well as that, some runs are just rubbish, especially if I’m not feeling 100%.

Your Nose may RUN, RUN, RUN

This did my head in to start with.  Whenever I run, my nose feels left out and decides to join in, especially if it’s cold or slightly windy.  I carry some tissues and a few antibacterial wipes in my pocket or my waist bag, as there’s nothing worse than a runny nose.

Running Outside is Tougher for me.

I do most of my running on a treadmill as I was lucky enough to get a great deal after Xmas.  Without it, I doubt I’d be running so far at a time.  Outside, my feet hurt much sooner, as the treadmill is much more forgiving on them.  I’d go outside more if I could face being seen, but I’m not there yet.  I have my treadmill facing a window, so I can see outside and just put on my music.  I started off without the treadmill though, and I’d have kept going without it, although I suspect my progress would have been much slower.

If you decide to go for it, the best of luck, and let me know how you get on.

11 thoughts on “Running on Empty – What I’ve Learned from beginning to Run

  1. I cannot begin to tell you how awesome you are! You have done so much to help ME too. I needed this kick in the bum to get myself up from walking to running speed on the treadmill. You are my inspiration.

    Keep us posted.

    1. Hey you. x Good luck with it, hope it goes ok for you. I’m so glad I started this, and now just need to keep it up.

  2. This is such a fab story! My dad was told he had diabetes a few years back – he sorted out his diet and started walking a few nights a week…little dos we know he was secretly running the last bit back to the house. Each week he just ran a wee bit further and now he’s obsessed. He does the Parkrun every weekend and he’s gotten his time down to 26mins. I couldn’t be more proud of him.

    I’m a runner and a coach myself and the only problem I have with your story is exactly what the others have said – you should just get outside and go for it!! 🙂 you’re running for you – your health, your wellbeing and your enjoyment. It doesn’t matter how far or how fast you go – everyone starts somewhere and you’ve no idea how many people you might just inspire to follow in your footsteps!

    Parkrun is really great too – there are runners, walkers and joggers of all ages and abilities – it’s such a welcoming community so if you do decide to run outdoors get yourself along and meet some running buddies – I guarantee you’ll meet some lovely supportive people – and there’s nothing like a wee bit of friendly competition to spur you on too 😉

    Anyway, I think you’re amazing and it’s sounds like you’re doing really well with your running – hopefully if we get some scottish sun this summer you might be tempted off that treadmill! X

    1. Oh wow. 26 minutes would be an impossible dream for me to do a 5k in. I aspire to ever getting to that point. I know I need to get outside more, although finding carers for my mum and the kids so I can go is a challenge. The treadmill is just so much easier all round, but I think I’d like to get out in the fresh air sometimes.

      I’ve checked both our local Parkruns finishing times, and I’m not close enough to those who finish last yet to enter. I don’t want to make a complete fool of myself, and I do need to check mileage more. My watch records a longer distance than my treadmill, so I go by treadmill time so far.

      Thanks for the lovely comment. I think lots of us start by walking and then step it up a notch. I’d no idea I could even get this far.

  3. Great work Lesley. Keep it up. I’m on a similar journey with my diabetes but I’ve much further to go before I get to the stage you’re at.

    My walking and fitness has improved so much since getting my activity tracker as it pushes me to more steps each day.

    Yes I’m knackered afterwards but it’s only 8 weeks since I had the blood test that determined my diabetes and at that stage the thought of the step up onto a treadmill would have caused me to break out into a sweat. I’m now doing 50min plus walks at a rate of 6.0km/hr plus and my recovery is relatively rapid compared to a month back.

    I still feel I’m too heavy to run at this stage and felt a bit nervy jogging across the road this morning to beat the lights changing, even though it’s only a matter of 20-30 feet, purely because I’m fearful that I may injure myself and set myself back.

    It did feel great to stretch my legs into a jog rather than the walking which does make my legs and ankles ache after a while.

    After your advice, I started with My Fitness Pal to log my food and it syncs with my activity tracker app and adjusts my allowance accordingly. I currently have it set to 1700 cals with a 50% fat, 45% protein and 5% carb a day for my Macronutrients. Obviously this calorific allowance increases with the exercise. I’m typically trying to stick to the 1700 cals but with approximately 1000 cals earnt from the walking each day I know I’m ok to eat into that a little if needed.

    All in all I’m getting there (I’ve been taken off my meds (Metformin and Astovastatin) already as they were causing problems with my blood, Liver and Kidney function levels).

    You have definitely inspired me by your own personal achievements and shown me what is achievable with hard work and determination.

    I thank you and will always be grateful for your help.


    1. Hi Stan. Every journey starts with that first step. It’s nice to hear that you’re getting on so well with your own progress. I remember when I started off last year, thinking I could never do it, but I just took one day at a time and one meal at a time. I still do. If I mess up, I just get right back to it the next day or the next meal. The one thing I’ve stopped doing, is feeling guilty if I have a day where I don’t exercise or I eat more than I should. I just fix it the next day. It’s getting more and more of a habit now, and I think about it less and less, though I will never stop logging, as it’s the only way to stay accountable over the spell of a week.

      If you enjoyed that wee jog, speak to your doctor, and if you get the go ahead, try 50 feet the next time, then 70 feet for a week or two, then maybe 100. Baby steps. Once you can do a minute, then start jog/walking for a while or try C25K if you want to start running. We can repeat weeks over and over until we’re comfortable with them. Losing weight will happen if you walk or you run. It’s all about the food intake. The exercise is for health. If running isn’t your thing, then walking is perfect. I’m smallish, so a 6k speed is a fast walk for me. I run around that level on the treadmill when I’ve warmed up. I was much slower at the start of running. Probably about 5k at a push when I started. I did say I was a slow runner… For me, it’s still all about the time I can go. Hopefully more speed will come with time. Lots of time, but I can run up stairs now, which is new for me. I love being able to do things like that.

      I wish you all the luck in the world. You’ve taken control, and seeing small successes. That’s all we can ask for when we start a major life change.

  4. I’ve found that runners can be ar*es occurs more now than it did 3.5 years ago when I took up running again. I actually find it’s the people who have started running more recently who can be more grumpy about life than longer term runners.

    I would just get out there. Get some decent outdoors running shoes and do it. When the sun is shining at this time of year, it’s not too hot and there is no better feeling. You also (allegedly) burn more calories as well due to wind resistance etc. Don’t worry about people judging you, it’s only happened once to me in 3.5 years and I told the kids who were giving me some chat to come back when they’re nearly 40.

    Seriously, I see all shapes and sizes running, don’t be embarrassed.

    1. I think it’ll take me a while yet to be comfortable outside 100%. I always want to stop and clap those who’ve got the nerve to go out, especially the newbies I see struggling, as it’s so fresh that I struggled as much with just a minute of running.

      I’ll get there, eventually….. I really want to be a proper runner sometimes 🙂

  5. I’ve found that runners can be ar*es occurs more now than it did 3.5 years ago when I took up running again. I actually find it’s the people who have started running more recently who can be more grumpy about life than longer term runners.

    I would just get out there. Get some decent outdoors running shoes and do it. When the sun is shining at this time of year, it’s not too hot and there is no better feeling. You also (allegedly) burn more calories as well due to wind resistance etc. Don’t worry about people judging you, it’s only happened once to me in 3.5 years and I told the kids who were giving me some chat to come back when they’re nearly 40.

    Seriously, I see all shapes and sizes running, don’t be embarrassed.

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